AT ONE POINT during the 2013-14 season, an opposing men’s basketball coach visiting Voelkel Gymnasium was a little frustrated with the way his day was going and needed a sympathetic ear. The closest people to his bench were working the scorer’s table, so during a dead ball, he turned and started an impromptu conversation.
“Holy (bleep), McAndrews is good,” he said. “Has anyone stopped him? Because we sure can’t.”
While his question was rhetorical, the answer has mostly been no. A first-team All-SCIAC selection, Kyle McAndrews ’15 already had over 1,000 points in his Pomona-Pitzer career (1,023) heading into his senior year, averaging 17.8 as a junior. He is also an Academic All-District winner and strong All-America candidate this year with a lofty GPA as a dual major in mathematics and economics.
As a result of his success in the classroom at Pomona, he earned an internship opportunity at J.P. Morgan in San Francisco last summer, and will begin full-time work there as an investment banking analyst after graduation. He’s the rare college basketball player who already signed his pro contract before his senior season, and with no need for the NCAA to start asking questions.
In fact, there were several investment banking firms interested in McAndrews, who missed a couple of practices last winter to fly to San Francisco for interviews. It was almost like going through the recruiting process all over again. However, McAndrews is quick to point out the flaw in the parallel. “For these interviews, you have to try to convince them to hire you,” he laughs. “During the recruiting process, the coaches already want you and just try to win you over. It’s safe to say that my interview with Coach Kat [Head Coach Charles Katisiaficas] was a little less intense.”
As a standout basketball player at Lakeside School in Seattle, McAndrews was intrigued by Pomona almost from the start of the college application process. Several other Lakeside students had recently attended Pomona and had successful experiences in sports and in the classroom, including Academic All-American football players James Lambert ’12 and Duncan Hussey ’13, and women’s soccer captain Charlotte Fisken ’14, among others.
“I knew Pomona was a great school and it seemed like an ideal fit,” he says. “The biggest thing that convinced me to come here was just the visit and spending time with the guys on the team. I also visited during one of the games against CMS so I got to see what the rivalry was like.”
If the recruiting visit didn’t give him a full sense of the intensity of the Pomona-Pitzer vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps rivalry, his freshman year drove the point home. In the first meeting in front of an overflow crowd in Voelkel Gymnasium, the Sagehens tied the score with six seconds left, only to see CMS drive coast-to-coast for a winning buzzer-beater in a crazy swing of momentum.
In the rematch, the Sagehens were down by two after a CMS three-pointer with 10 seconds left, when McAndrews was fouled shooting a three-pointer with just 0.4 seconds showing on the clock. With Ducey Gymnasium going bonkers trying to distract him, McAndrews stepped to the line for three pressure-packed shots, and buried all three to give Pomona-Pitzer the one-point win.
“It was pretty loud in there,” McAndrews laughs. “When the whistle blew, I was just glad to get the chance to step to the line in that situation since the game was over otherwise. Then the noise started building and it got really intense. I was just happy to help us get the win.”
The clutch performance was a harbinger of things to come. In the SCIAC semifinals against Whittier as a freshman, McAndrews scored 18 of his 22 points to carry the Sagehens to a 60–53 win after trailing by five at the half. As a sophomore, he hit a tying three-pointer with 20 seconds left in an 81–79 win over Westmont, while last year, he hit several big shots in a double-overtime win over Chapman, including a jumper and a three-pointer in the last 30 seconds of regulation and a three-point play with 12 seconds left in the first overtime, all with the Sagehens trailing.
He also had 15 of his 18 points in the second half of a home win over CMS after breaking a scoreless drought with a first-half buzzer-beater from three-point territory. He broke out his full arsenal of scoring weapons late in the second half to help put it away—step backs, pull-ups, crossovers, drives to the rim through traffic, etc.
According to Katsiaficas, McAndrews arrived at Pomona-Pitzer with many of those scoring gifts, but has worked exceptionally hard at becoming a complete player. “Kyle has an aggressive scoring mentality that is difficult to find anywhere at this level,” says Katsiaficas, who puts McAndrews on the short list of the top four or five guards he has coached in 27 years. “Where he has really added to his game is expanding his range out to the three-point line and improving as a passer. He’s so much tougher to guard now because you can’t afford to play off him, and it’s hard to run a double team at him.”
McAndrews says the process of developing that added range was a difficult one. “After my freshman year, I made a structural change to my jump shot,” he says. “It required taking a couple of steps backwards to move forward. It was frustrating for a while, but fortunately I had good coaching to help me through it, and most of the frustration was during the off-season.”
That same work ethic has helped him succeed in the classroom. He also credits the culture in the athletic program for making it doable. “We have a great atmosphere here, where our coaches and teammates all buy in to the philosophy that academics come first,” he says. “If you have a lab, you go to the lab; if you have class, you leave practice early. When I had my interviews last year and had to miss practice time, it wasn’t ideal, but everyone was 100 percent supportive.”
McAndrews had another big effort in the SCIAC semifinals last year, scoring 26 points against Chapman, but the team came up short and did not get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only things missing from his resumé are a SCIAC title and an NCAA bid.
“That’s the big goal,” he says. “That’s everything to me. We have a really good chance to make this a special season with the guys we have coming back and the young guys we have who are ready to step in and play right away. We’re just going in with the attitude that we need to work hard at getting better every day and hopefully have it be our year. We’d love to put 2015 on a banner.”