Written by Logan Patton
With his love of sports having begun in kindergarten, Bryan Joel participated in a variety including basketball, baseball and soccer. As he continued to compete throughout the years, baseball and soccer steadily lost their appeal and Joel committed solely to basketball. Four years after first stepping foot on campus as a Caltech student-athlete, it is no surprise that Joel looks back fondly on his journey.
Joel came to Caltech from across the country, having attended Walt Whitman High School, a public school located in Bethesda, Md. Now in his final days as a senior at Caltech, he can look back on a fruitful career as one of the most respected leaders in program history in addition to a remarkably consistent performer on the court and in the classroom. Joel knows it all started well before he stepped foot on campus, though.
"I probably came across as a well-rounded candidate in my application because to supplement my good grades and test scores, I had a tremendous passion for basketball as a four-year player and was also on our school's video production team," Joel said.
Once at Caltech, Joel wasted no time in making his mark. Over his four years on the basketball team, he averaged 7.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game while ranking third all-time in three-point percentage, at .338. He also received numerous awards, including the SCIAC Ted Ducey Award, the Howard Vesper Trophy - which he won two consecutive years – and the Caltech Athletics Director's Award.
Yet he is quick to point out the biggest achievement of all – leading Caltech to three wins in SCIAC play for the first time since 1960-61, snapping a 55-game conference losing streak dating back to 2011, when the Beavers gained national acclaim for breaking the notorious 310-game skid. In a span of 14 days, Joel and his teammates equaled the total number of SCIAC wins the program had amassed over the previous 43 years.
"The Vesper awards were very nice recognition because they came from my teammates, so it feels very good to know that those closest to me valued my contributions," Joel said. "The Ducey Award was special in a different way, because that one came from opposing coaches. Most importantly, our team came together and accomplished something amazing. Everything I did every day was for my teammates and to get a conference championship up on the wall, and I think we took a big step forward this year."
Aside from basketball, Joel is also active on campus, especially in the dining area, where he holds roles as head waiter of his house and student manager of the on-campus coffee house.
In the minimal time he is not on the hardwood or assisting in the kitchen, Joel is usually hard at work in the classroom as a mechanical engineering major. He has done research at George Washington University, where he joined a professor who was studying the kinematics of sea lion swimming and led the design and construction of a robotic sea lion flipper for use in their lab.
"I chose Mech E because it involves a lot of design and creative problem solving," Joel said. "I like the hands-on aspect as well. You get to clearly see everything you build or design. Working at GW, it was pretty cool to have complete discretion over the design and parts and assembly. It was quite a different experience compared to my prior team-based work, but I found equally valuable and engaging."
With graduation just days away, Joel's lifelong passion for basketball has turned his postgraduate attention to Northwestern University's Sports Administration Master's program, where he will enroll with a specialization in Sports Analytics and has agreed to join the men's basketball coaching staff as an assistant coach at the University of Chicago.
"I'm excited to be moving to a new, fun city," Joel beamed. "I'm really excited to make the transition from player to coach and look forward to starting it all this fall."