A Long Time Coming

Feb. 28, 2006

A Better Shot
If Division I basketball and the world of business share one philosophy, it's the need for risk management. To be successful in each, it's important to have employees and players who understand what will likely work, and what will not. In basketball, you need players who understand what a good shot is - and more importantly - what a bad shot is.

Chris Devine is one of those guys for Head Coach Bob Williams at UCSB, and he should be. As a business-economics major at UCSB, Devine has developed an appreciation for the more finite things in life, and the more plausible shots on the court. Currently 27th in the nation in field goal percentage at 58.4%, the Eagle River, Alaska native's biggest asset may be humility in shot selection.

"One of the reasons his percentage is so high was because he is taking shots he is comfortable with and shots that he feels good about," Williams said.

With that in mind, it's hard to believe that this is Devine's first year in a Gaucho uniform, considering the 6-8 forward has been at UCSB since the fall of 2003. Devine spent the last two seasons resigned to the Santa Barbara sideline, his first as a redshirt freshman and the most recent with a rare knee injury known as Osteochondritis Dissecans.

Sitting out one year is commonplace in Division I, with the advantages of redshirting and the rule requiring transfers to sit out a year before playing. Two years is a different story though.

"I had to sit out a year when I transferred," said senior guard Joe See, who transferred to UCSB after one year at Oregon State. "He had to sit out two years - I can't even imagine what that would be like. When you're on the sideline during games, you get pumped up but you can't do anything about. It's an extremely frustrating situation."

In the summer of 2004, Devine noticed a pain in his knee while training for what he thought would be his first full season at Santa Barbara. As the summer progressed, the pain became so palpable Devine couldn't even run on it. When doctors told him he would have to have surgery on it and would probably be out for at least four months, Devine was crushed.

"It was pretty hard, especially at first," Devine said. "It sucked because I knew I was going to miss most of the season. But, you know, I can only lick my wounds for so long. A month later I was ready fine and ready to move on."

The four months doctors told him he would be out quickly became ten, and before Devine knew it, he had missed his second complete season at Santa Barbara. To get back into playing shape was a long and occasionally frustrating journey for Devine. The hardship Devine faced was not lost on his teammates, who struggled just as much on the court as Devine did off the court.

"It was really frustrating for him last year. We were struggling and he wanted to be on the court to help, but he couldn't. I can't imagine having to sit out two years in a row," teammate Michael Chambers said.

After two years of watching from the sideline, Devine made his official debut as a Gauchoon November 18, 2005 against San Francisco. Devine was all business, clocking in for 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds and dispensing seven assists in UCSB's 82-59 win, showing the 3,433 fans on hand just what they had been missing, and more importantly, what they could expect to come.

"That was pretty cool man. There were a lot of people here," Devine said. "I was a bit overwhelmed. I had never played in front of that many people so it was really special, I was psyched. I thought we were going to be rolling after that."

Devine's injury, Osteochondritis Dissecans, is common among baseball players and gymnasts, but relatively unheard of in the world of basketball. It isn't the first time Devine has been an atypical case study for a doctor either.

When Chris was about five years old, doctors found a benign tumor that ate away at the bones in his ear which are central in the hearing process. The disorder, known as Cholesteatoma, would cause Devine to lose all hearing in his right ear, permanently.

Devine says he barely notices it now, but admits that there are times on the court when he has no idea what Coach Williams might be saying ... or yelling.

A Sound Choice
That he can only hear out of one ear might explain why Devine has dictated his own direction in his life.

In Alaska, the sport of choice is unequivocally football. Despite pressures from his friends, Devine insisted on playing the sport he loved - "hoop," as he calls it.

Out of high school, Devine had offers to play all over the country. It came down to a choice between Arizona State, Montana State and UC Santa Barbara. Conventional wisdom would advise him to play at a bigger Pac-10 school, but Arizona State didn't feel right to him. Devine's older brother played at Montana State, so there was a comfort factor there.

"I would have been a freshman when he was a senior, so that would have been cool, but what it came down to was that Montana was too much like Alaska," Devine said. "Don't get me wrong, I love Alaska, but I wanted to do something different."

Williams, who began recruiting Devine the spring his junior season, loved everything he saw on the court from the lengthy point guard-turned-forward.

"When I first saw him, I liked how well he moved, he was tough to guard, knew how to draw fouls, he was very competitive, and his body was actually between a three and a four," Williams said. "I thought he was really high level at both of those positions."

When Williams did the in-home visit with Devine, there were two (well, maybe three) points Williams needed to get across.

"Besides the weather, one of the important selling points was the academics. He's a good student and the standards of the UC were appealing to him," Williams said. "Also, we saw him as a guy who could come in and play early in his career."

That Devine was unable to play early in his career was not only a setback for him, but it was also to both of those teams. As each team struggled to meet expectations, explanations usually included a caveat about Devine's absence.

"I think it was a blow. He was definitely a guy who could have helped both those teams," Williams said. "Last year, he would have been a go-to guy, especially when you consider all the other injuries we had last year."

Mr. Mop-ular
Ever the even-headed person, Devine is a popular choice among teammates on the court as well as off the court. "I'd say he's closer to more people on the team than anyone else," Williams said.

His teammates agree, invariably making him a broad target for a good-old-fashioned ribbing from time to time.

"Yeah, I get `Helmet' a lot," Devine said, in reference to his bountiful head of hair. "Last year, I used to wear a hat all the time and when I would take it off for practice, it looked like I was wearing a helmet."

Devine said he has no plans to crop the `do,' and seems to have the support of his teammates, but it's not his teammates that Devine worries about.

"Well I'm hoping coach doesn't say anything," Devine said. "If he doesn't, I'm not touching it."