At many colleges, if the men's basketball team's top player were to sign a pro contract before his senior season even started, the NCAA would start asking questions.
Pomona doesn't have to worry, though. Kyle McAndrews '15 signing to be an investment banking analyst with J.P. Morgan isn't the sort of development that attracts NCAA investigators.
A first-team All-SCIAC selection, McAndrews already has scored more than 1,000 points – 1,023 to be exact – in his Pomona-Pitzer career heading into his senior year. With a lofty GPA as a dual major in mathematics and economics, he is also a Capital One Academic All-District winner and a strong All-America candidate this year.
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 working there full time after graduation.
A standout basketball player at Lakeside School in Seattle, McAndrews was intrigued by Pomona early on in his college application process. Several other Lakeside students had recently attended Pomona with 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.
"I knew Pomona was a great school, and it seemed like an ideal fit," says McAndrews. "The biggest thing that convinced me to come here was [visiting] 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."
He experienced the intensity of the cross-campus rivalry with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps first-hand his freshman year. In the first meeting in front of an overflow crowd, the Sagehens tied the score with six seconds left, only to see CMS drive coast-to-coast for a winning buzzer-beater.
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 on the clock. With the crowd at Claremont McKenna's Ducey Gymnasium going bonkers trying to distract him, McAndrews stepped to the line for three pressure-packed shots. He buried all three to give Pomona-Pitzer the one-point win.
"When the whistle blew, I was just glad to get the chance to step to the line since the game was over otherwise," McAndrews recalls. "Then the noise started building and it got really intense. I was happy to help us get the win."
The clutch performance was a harbinger. In the SCIAC semifinals against Whittier that same year, McAndrews scored 18 of his 22 points to carry the Sagehens to a 60-53 win. Last year, he hit several big shots in a double-overtime win over Chapman, including a three-point play with 12 seconds left in the first overtime with the Sagehens trailing. In another win over CMS, he scored 15 of his 18 points late in the second half, breaking out his full arsenal of scoring weapons – step backs, pull-ups, crossovers, and drives to the rim through traffic.
According to Coach Charles 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," said 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."
McAndrews said the process of developing that added range, which included changing his jump shot, was a difficult one. "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."
That same work ethic has helped him succeed in the classroom, but he also credits the scholar-athlete culture at Pomona College. "Our coaches and teammates all buy in to the philosophy that academics come first," he said. "If you have a lab, you go to the lab; if you have class, you leave practice early." McAndrews had to miss practices last year for several job interviews, including J.P. Morgan, but "everyone was 100-percent supportive."
The one thing missing from his resume is a SCIAC title and an NCAA bid, and that's been the driving force motivating him this offseason.
"That's everything to me," says McAndrews. "We have a really good chance to make this a special season with the guys we have coming back and the [new players] 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."