On a basketball team that is 21-6, ranked third in the San Diego section, already owns the 2019 Avocado West League title and features four senior starters, including the dynamic twin duo of Bryce and Michael Pope, it would be understandably difficult for any younger player to work his way into the headlines. But even in that setting, Torrey Pines junior Brandon Angel is clearly making his mark.
Although the 6-foot-7, 197-pound Angel is averaging 11.0 points per game on 55 percent shooting (41 percent from three-point range), a team high 7.4 rebounds per contest and has handed out 42 assists, it would not be inaccurate to still consider him slightly under the radar. In his second year on the Falcon varsity and a veteran of the local club basketball scene, Angel has an intimidating wingspan, a smooth shooting stroke, the ability to get to the iron when the situation dictates and the versatility to have started at quarterback on the school’s JV team as a sophomore. One person who plainly understands his value is well-respected Torrey Pines Head Coach John Olive.
“Brandon has an excellent feel for the game, a high basketball IQ, and with his size, to be able to shoot the ball as well as he does is a real advantage,” says Olive. “He’s one of our main scorers, defenders and leaders.
“I think he has tremendous upside and would be surprised if he’s not a Division I player at some point.”
As the third-seeded Falcons (they reached the semi-finals last year) prepare for their Saturday, Feb. 16, CIF Open Division quarterfinal match-up with sixth-seeded Poway, the San Diego native took time to talk about how his game has developed, this year’s Torrey Pines squad and what’s possible in the post-season.
Q—How do you see your role on the Torrey Pines team?
ANGEL—I try to do a little bit of everything. Defensively, it’s about stopping my man and using my length as a rebounder. On the offensive side, we have two of the most talented scorers I’ve ever played with in Michael and Bryce Pope so I try to score the ball when I need to and be selfless—whatever I can do to help us win games.
Q—How would you describe your game? What are you working on now to try to improve it?
ANGEL—I’m known as a shooter, that’s my niche, a lot of catch and shoot. I’m always working on maintaining my shooting touch and covering the three levels—three-point shooting, mid-range and finishing at the basket. I get a ton of reps shooting but I’m also trying to develop the other facets of my game.
My focus there is mainly ballhandling and using that to be better scoring off the dribble. I’d like to feel more comfortable doing that and also finishing with more explosion. A few other areas would be utilizing pump fakes, using my strength for more efficiency and creating more for other players.
Q—You have a load of size and talent on this year’s Torrey Pines roster. How difficult is it to make all of the pieces work fluidly?
ANGEL—It’s definitely been a process, trying to define and understand each other’s roles. We’re all used to getting shots and a lot of building the chemistry comes down to learning to trust your teammates. We all understand we can’t do it without each other.
We have as much talent as any team out there and if we play as a team and not individuals, that’s when we’ll have the highest level of success.
Q—You played football your first two years at Torrey Pines, starting at quarterback for the JV team as a sophomore. Why did you give up football?
ANGEL—It’s really hard to describe. I’ve been playing football as long as I have basketball. I liked football but just didn’t love it as much as I do basketball. I don’t see basketball as a job. It is literally something I want to do every day. Football is just not the same. It was a big-time commitment and I saw more of a future for myself with basketball.
Q—What do you like most about basketball?
ANGEL—As a team, when we’re playing together and for each other, making the extra pass and excited to see each other succeed. That’s when we’re playing our best and that’s what I like the most. Individually, just doing the things I need to do to help us win—rebounding, scoring and being in position to help defensively.
Q—You started playing basketball at the recreation level as a kindergartner with your dad coaching the team. How did you like playing for your father?
ANGEL—It was great. I still work out with my dad pretty much every day, specifically with my shooting. He’s not a coach but he played in high school (at nearby Mt. Carmel), watches basketball on TV pretty much 24/7, studies coaching videos and even breaks down film. He really does his homework and is pretty invested.
I know he’s someone who will always be looking out for my best interest and working with him has brought us a lot closer over the years
Both of my parents never miss my games. The next step is college and I plan to make sure I work to give myself as many opportunities as I can. At the end, I want to know that I put everything into it and have no regrets. My dad is a big part of that.
Q—How has Coach John Olive impacted your game?
ANGEL—He has one of the smartest basketball minds I’ve ever been around, second to none, and has helped me a lot. Individually, he shows me different moves, what to use and when—I always take what he says to heart.
He works hard, really hard. He spends countless hours breaking down film then at practices focuses on helping us with our weaknesses. He’s not really flashy but all about the details—when to probe, when to kick, positioning. He’s on top of it all.
Q—Your team has already won its third consecutive Avocado West League title and will begin CIF Open Division Playoffs this week. How did it feel to win another league title and how would you evaluate the team’s prospects in CIF?
ANGEL—The league is obviously important—every win matters to us and winning the league is a step toward our goal of winning CIF. Torrey Pines has a tradition of winning its league championship and there’s almost an expectation that we will continue that trend.
As far as the Open Division, it’s not going to be easy. We open with Poway at home on Saturday. It’s a good first round game but we know there won’t be any cakewalks. This is all about being the team that can string together three wins. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year and we’re going to come out with our heads down and ready to go hard.
If we play the way we should, I don’t think there’s anyone that can stop us. We’re big, all of us are threats offensively and as a team we’ve grown a lot over the course of the season.
Q—Where would you say you’ve grown the most as a unit?
ANGEL—Communication and chemistry. We’re communicating a lot better on defense and that has contributed to our chemistry getting better. And having better chemistry has helped us improve in a lot of other phases.
Q—Is there a particular player that you admire or may have modeled some of your game on?
ANGEL—I’m a big Klay Thompson guy. The efficiency of his game is second to none. There are no wasted dribbles, no excess show and he has textbook form as a shooter. The way he comes off screens is pretty much perfection.
Q—If the Pope twins (Michael & Bryce) weren’t wearing different numbers, would you know which was which when you’re playing? Do you ever mistake one for the other off the court?
ANGEL—I’d say that now I get it right about 70 percent of the time. I’ve messed up my fair share of times but I can normally pick them up across campus now.
Q—How would you compare the Popes to last year’s senior leader Finn Sullivan and how have the three influenced your play?
ANGEL—As I said, the Pope twins are probably the most gifted scorers I’ve ever played with—they may be better than Finn in that category but Finn could do it all. He led us in rebounds and assists as well as scoring—he almost averaged a triple double.
The Popes can flat out score. Everyone knows they can knock it down from outside but they’ve got great footwork in the post as well as strength and balance. There’s stuff I’ve learned from all three as well as our coaches. I try to blend it all where it makes sense but I won’t try to be someone else on the court.
Q—You have a cumulative GPA of 4.4 at Torrey Pines. What are some of your favorite classes?
ANGEL—I’m interested in business and my favorite classes in that area have been Introduction to business management with Mr. (James) Anthony and marketing with Ms. (Shannon) Essrig. There are a lot of life applications talking about things like the stock market, marketing techniques, etc. It’s less theoretical.
I also like math and have picked things up there pretty instinctually. Right now, I’m taking a calculus CD class through San Diego State.
Q—What do you like to do with your spare time?
ANGEL—I enjoy an occasional round of golf and play mostly at The Vineyard in Escondido. If I get out regularly, I can play bogey golf pretty consistently. Ironically, golf is what I really wanted to do when I was little. As it is now, I don’t golf at all during the basketball season.