Wildcat of the Year nominee: Sean Park

Chico State men's basketball player Sean Park gets airborne in a game last season. Orion file photo

Before the crowd gets riled up, before the sneakers hit the hardwood floor, before that first tipoff, Sean Park catches up on sleep.

Park, a former Chico State men’s basketball player, has been nominated for the 2014 Orion Sports Wildcat of the Year.

Last year, Park started in 33 games for the Wildcats, bringing his career total to 119 games, tying him with Damario Sims for the most in team history. Before every game, Park would take a roughly 90-minute nap, allowing him to clear his head before waking up in time to shower and eat before leaving for shootaround.

He said he doesn’t model his game after his idol Kobe Bryant, but a pregame nap is one thing the pair have in common.

Growing up in Goleta, Park was introduced to the game by his father, Craig Park. The Wildcat alumnus has memories of watching the Los Angeles Lakers and Bryant in the family living room, and then playing basketball at recess in elementary school before moving onto Dos Pueblos High School. In his last year, he led the Chargers to their first undefeated league season. He was awarded the Santa Barbara County Player of the Year in 2008.

“Senior year, I hit a game-winning 3-pointer that clinched us the league championship, and it was against our rivals,” Park said. “The crowd had been taunting me the entire time so I lost a little bit of composure after I made it.”

After graduating high school in 2008, Park signed with Westmont College. He was forced to redshirt that first year, however, after a shoulder injury required surgery. Park transferred to Chico State in 2010 and broke into the starting lineup partway through his first year.

During his senior year at Chico State, Park averaged 12.6 points per game. He was a starter on the first Wildcat team to claim the NCAA West Region Championship after a comeback victory and to reach the Elite 8 before falling to South Carolina-Aiken.

“The most memorable moment was cutting down the nets after our comeback Elite 8 win,” Park said. “Emotions were running so high, people were in tears.”

Getting to that point didn’t come without his share of workouts, shootarounds and team practices. Park spent a lot of time in the gym working on his shot from the line. It paid off, as Park was named to the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association second team that season.

“During his senior season Sean came to me and asked me to work in the gym with him,” said Justin Blake, Chico State’s assistant men’s basketball coach. “We would be in there at 7 or 8 a.m., three or four days a week. I’ll always remember how hard he worked and how much effort he gave in the morning, and then would still come back to put up shots after class and then practice with the team after all of that.”

Park left Chico with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise physiology, giving him plenty of options off the court as well. Park decided to continue on with his basketball career since graduation, signing with the Worcester Wolves of the British Basketball League.

Kevin Lucena can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.