Brandon Kurtz, a local Centennial High School and Bakersfield College standout, will be recognized as one of California’s finest junior college athletes ever on Friday.
Kurtz will be inducted into the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the Courtyard Marriott in Oxnard. The Hall of Fame brunch begins at 9 a.m.
After graduating from Centennial, Kurtz helped form one of the greatest BC men’s basketball teams in school history during the 1998 season.
He joined Sean Daniels (Highland High School graduate who would play collegiately at Utah State) and Josh Williams (North High School graduate who would play collegiately at Point Loma) as local products who helped lead the Renegades to prominence.
Guard Rodney Crawford, an Ohio native, was another BC player during that era who eventually took the Division I hardwood at the University of Cincinnati.
And Tye Hammond (West High School) and Nick O’Neal (Tehachapi High School) were other Kern County players who contributed immensely to the team’s success that season, according to former head coach Mark Arce.
“That was just a unique run of really good players,” Arce said. “We always had a few good ones. But that group, there were so many.”
That core of Renegades led the team to special heights in 1998 — a 34-4 record and a state finals appearance, where they lost to Compton College.
Aside from Bakersfield College’s state title in 1978, it's most likely the most successful season in BC men’s basketball history.
“We had some good teams,” said Arce, who was Renegades head coach for six years. “But that was definitely the best one.”
Kurtz, for his part, was highly skilled. Standing at 6-foot-10, he said he always had basketball talent, but that he was academically ineligible for the second half of his junior and senior years at Centennial.
That led to minimal interest from Division I college programs when Kurtz came out of high school. He said he also needed to mature mentally and physically — Kurtz said while he came to BC standing at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, he still had to grow into his body while getting stronger and in better condition.
“That summer between my freshman and sophomore years at BC, gosh. I was 18 turning on 19. My body just took off and everything clicked,” Kurtz said. “By the time my sophomore year rolled around, it started working.”
Just prior to his sophomore campaign, the University of Arizona said he wasn’t athletic enough to play for the Wildcats, Kurtz said.
By the end of that season however — when he averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds, shot nearly 60 percent from the floor, and recorded 24 double-doubles — Kurtz said the Wildcats did in fact offer him a scholarship.
That overture joined a long list of other well-known programs that extended offers Kurtz’s way: Colorado State, UCLA, USC, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Michigan State.
Still, Kurtz elected to attend Tulsa to join head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Billy Gillispie.
“It was the relationship with the coaches that recruited me,” Kurtz said. “Gillespie, man he’s gotten a bad rap, but to me he was nothing but great. He would do anything for his players. And he showed that.”
Tulsa made the NCAA Tournament in both of Kurtz’s years at the school — in 1999 the Golden Hurricane went 23-10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAAs; the following season Tulsa finished with a 32-5 record and moved all the way to the Elite 8.
Wrote Self in an email: “At that time, (Kurtz) was by far the best big man that I had been around as a head coach. He was so skilled. He could pass, shoot and he was tough. He matured to be the anchor for what turned out to be the best team in Tulsa history.”
Kurtz would go on to a 12-year professional career.
Stints overseas featured stops in Greece, Spain, the Neatherlands, Israel, Lebanon and Argentina.
He also played two years in the National Basketball Development League with the Asheville Altitude, where he won an NBDL title.
While he said his goal was to ultimately reach the NBA, he added, “I had a good run….Great professional career playing and seeing the world.”
After returning to Tulsa following his playing days, Kurtz moved back to Bakersfield in 2008.
Jon Mettus contributed to this report