Interview With Former UCLA Star: Dave Immel
By Ken Wong
Bruin Basketball Report (BBR) caught up with former UCLA basketball star, Dave Immel (’83-’88), for an in-depth interview.
Immel shares memories from his UCLA playing days, and gives an interesting insight into the basketball program during his career at UCLA.
As a high school star at Glencoe High School in Oregon, he led his team to a 24-1 record and a basketball state championship in his senior year, and was named Oregon Player of the Year.
He was a starter at UCLA for two years, leading the PAC-10 in three point field goal percentage and graduating as a team captain in 1988.
During his career at UCLA, Immel averaged 7.8 points over 107 games, and still ranks No.12 all-time in UCLA history for three-point field goals scored.
In 1987 he helped the Bruins to their first-ever Pac-10 Tournament title in the same year they won the Pac-10 regular-season. This feat was not matched until this year's 2006 team.
Immel recently helped coach the Southridge High School Girls Varsity basketball team in Beaverton, Oregon, to a second consecutive OSAA Class 4A championship.
BBR: In 1983 you graduated from Glencoe High School, and were named Oregon Player of the Year. Both Oregon universities had solid basketball teams at the time. I'm surprised Hall of Fame Coach Ralph Miller didn't give orders to state troopers to stop you from crossing state lines. What made you decide to leave your home state to play college basketball at UCLA?
Immel: "This was an easy choice. I was born in Encino, CA and lived in and around Simi Valley for 13 years before moving to Oregon in 1977; and therefore, I grew up following UCLA basketball. When I had the opportunity to attend UCLA on an athletic scholarship, my only concern was whether or not I felt I could play at that level. On my recruiting visit in November of 1982 I watched a Saturday practice and felt like I could compete making my choice to attend UCLA an easy one. I will say that Ralph was not happy with my decision to leave and he had some rather choice things to say upon my departure. I was the first Oregon Player of the Year not to attend Oregon State in some time.”
BBR: After your freshman year, UCLA Head Coach Larry Farmer, who recruited you out of Glencoe High School, resigned as coach. Former Bruin great, Walt Hazzard, was hired in his place. Was it a difficult transition?
Immel: “Yes, I came home to Oregon over spring break and I was very concerned with the transition. When Hazzard became the coach, he called me in Oregon and ‘re-recruited’ me to stay at UCLA. After several discussions with Hazzard, I was comfortable with the transition early on as I was told many promising things about the program and where we would be heading. Bottom line – I wanted to win and Hazzard appeared to represent that.”
BBR: You were part of a great UCLA recruiting class in 1983. Did you ever think a freshman by the name of Reggie Miller would develop into the All-Star NBA player he became later?
Immel: “Reggie is a tremendous competitor; he always has been as long as I’ve known him. I never felt he was the best athlete on the court, but he’s always been able to figure out how to be successful. He’s one of the few players I’ve seen that seemed to have a knack for turning it up another level when the ‘lights’ came on. It’s been a real pleasure watching his career and I’m very happy for him. However, having said that, I would never have thought that Reggie would have become an NBA superstar. He had a great career!”
BBR: During your career at UCLA, you were involved in a number of memorable basketball games. Let's go back into history and reminisce about some of those games.
BBR: In a 1987 game against Louisville at Pauley Pavilion, you scored a career-high 23 points including 6-10 on three-point shots to help your team defeat a Louisville team led by Pervis Ellison. Your teammate, Reggie Miller, scored 42 points in the game (7th best in UCLA history). After the game, Louisville Coach Denny Crum was quoted as saying; "They can shoot from anywhere (referring to Immel and Miller)", he continued "In fact they did." You and Reggie were on fire! What are some of your recollections from the game?
Immel: “It was an early afternoon game and my first 3 pointer was an ‘air’ ball; a rather inauspicious start to such a prolific day. However, once I got going, the confidence just seemed to build and I felt like I could do no wrong. It was a fun game because Louisville was the defending national champs and Ellison was a great defender.”
BBR: A game which didn't end positively was a 1985 game against USC. The Trojans beat the Bruins 80-78 after four overtime periods; the game still remains the longest game in UCLA basketball history. With eight seconds remaining in the last overtime, you were at the free throw line with an opportunity to put your team up by two. You missed both free throws, and the Trojans rushed down to score the winning basket. Ironically you would lead the Bruins in free throw shooting two years later. Talk about displaying character under adversity, your team didn't lose another game on its way to an NIT championship. How did you and your teammates come back from such an emotional setback?
Immel: “Yes, that was an extremely tough pill to swallow. Earlier in the season, we had lost to USC in double-overtime as well. I think what really helped the team was the senior leadership of Nigel Miguel, Gary Maloncon and Brad Wright. They were determined to end their careers on a positive note.”
BBR: In 1987 you played in your first and only NCAA tournament. UCLA won the Pac-10 title and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Wyoming and Fennis Dembo, 78-68. You had a great tournament averaging 10.5 points per game. What were your most memorable moments from the tournament?
Immel: “I remember feeling very confident about our team at the time…we played like a team and it was fun! It was one of the few times at UCLA when I really felt like we actually banded together for the greater cause of the team rather than individual play. I only wish we had accepted this approach more often. Unfortunately, that was not a common theme during my time at UCLA.”
BBR: You live in the Portland vicinity, and Kevin Love, a highly recruited high school junior, attends nearby Lake Oswego High School. As you're probably aware, UCLA is recruiting him heavily. What are your impressions of Kevin Love as a player?
Immel: “He’s an outstanding player and a good kid! I would love to see Kevin in a Bruin uniform. He has the best outlet pass of any high school or college player I’ve ever seen. He’s a very smart player and has great command of the low post and team game. It would be special to see him in Pauley Pavilion helping the Bruins win.”
BBR: What are your impressions of the current UCLA team and Head Coach Ben Howland?
Immel: “Great season thus far. I really like Howland and I think his approach brings a winning formula. I’ve not spoken to him personally, but from what I hear, he believes in ‘tough’ players and in great defense. I believe those are attributes for a successful program. Apply those qualities to the type of athletes UCLA will be able to attract and I’m confident the Bruin program is in good hands for many years to come. I think he has been a great hire.”
BBR: What did you do after your college and professional playing days were over?
Immel: “Playing basketball professionally was not a major goal for me. I tried out with the Trailblazers in 1988 and the Pacers in 1989. I also played two seasons in Australia before calling it quits at age 26. When I returned from Australia in 1991, I moved to Seattle, which is where my wife is from, and explored a couple of different career paths. An opportunity to manage an athletic club (basketball only) in Beaverton brought me back to the Portland area in 1995 where I’ve been ever since. I am now working toward getting my real estate license which I should have in about 2 months. Throughout this time I’ve managed to stay connected to basketball as a coach. I love being around the game and helping young people realize the greatness in themselves. Coaching is one of my ways to give back and I feel most alive when I’m coaching.”
BBR: Tell us about a program you're involved in called "CompetitiveEdge Basketball"?
Immel: “CompetitiveEdge Basketball is a skill building program that offers individual, small group, academy programs as well as competitive games for kids aspiring to improve their understanding and ability in all areas of basketball. I’ve partnered with two Oregon Hall of Fame coaches to provide kids with some of the best instruction available anywhere. Anyone interested in learning more can check our web site at www.cebasketball.net.”
BBR: Dave, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share memories from your playing days at UCLA.
(photo credit: ASUCLA)