Before senior point guard Bren Haley steps onto the court, he bends down his 6-foot frame and raps his knuckles three times against the painted hardwood.
In the midst of a breakout season that was never guaranteed to happen for Haley, it’s hard to imagine those knuckles aren’t getting sore.
“All I was ever promised was an opportunity to play, to compete,” said Haley, a San Diego City College transfer student. “Over the summer they saw how hard I was working and knew they could stick with me. Their trust means the world to me.”
A year removed from filling a supporting role as a bench player in his first season as a Gator and six months after surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder, Haley has refused to get off of the court. He’s accumulated more playing time than anyone else on this season’s squad in large part due to a level of trust that head coach Paul Trevor challenged him to earn.
“He’s got a lot of leadership abilities, and running the team comes naturally for him,” Trevor said. “He worked extra hard in the offseason, matured physically and evaluated what was important to him.”
Haley has long since solidified his role as the glue of the team, implementing coach Trevor’s game plan from the predominantly ball-distributing point guard position. He scans the court on a play-by-play basis, searching for an ample pass or move to catalyze a scoring opportunity. More often than not he is successful, evidenced by his conference-leading assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5. His resolve to improve and ability to elevate the play of his teammates have led to his designation as one of the team’s captains.
Leading SF State’s basketball team was never a certainty in Haley’s journey since leaving his hometown of Chico. A predisposition to both basketball and San Francisco, however, is not surprising given his family history.
“My mom ran away to San Francisco from Tennessee when she was 17, and my brother Tim played and now coaches for Chico State,” Haley said. “It’s been a great story for my family that I’m back here playing.”
The Gators compete in the same conference as Chico State, meaning Haley gets to travel home twice a year to play in front of his family and friends. His mom, who considers herself Bren’s biggest fan, proudly watches from the stands as her sons engage in the sport they love.
“If you asked me who my biggest fan was in front of my mom I’d have to say my mom, but if you asked me in front of my girlfriend I’d have to say her,” Haley said, laughing. “They both kind of want the bragging rights.”
After graduating from SF State in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Haley plans to emulate his older brother by traveling to Europe and playing internationally.
“I’ve always been proud of Bren,” said Tim Haley, Bren’s older brother. “Love for basketball has always been something we shared. I am very happy to see him have success during his senior season because he has worked very hard to get where he is at. He has proved a lot of people wrong, but not me. I’ve always had confidence in his game.”
Haley’s accolades already include being named to an all-tournament team this season, but it is the person he is away from basketball for whom he hopes to be remembered.
“I think that the coaches are proud of the man that I’ve grown to be,” Haley said. “I’ve made my mistakes, but they’ve stuck with me. I want to be remembered for my leadership, as the guy that made sure everybody was on the same page. I’d like to be considered one of the best point guards coach Trevor has ever coached, and I know there’s a lot of them.”