THE SWEET SIXTEEN - #15 - PHIL CHENIER#15 - PHIL CHENIER - GUARD (1970-1971)
The first Golden Bear to take advantage of early entry to the NBA, Chenier played only two seasons in Berkeley. Chenier was sort of like Jason Kidd on a smaller scale - local product chooses Cal, demonstrates ridiculous talent and then leaves. Unlike Kidd, though, Chenier was a scorer from the word go, regularly hitting in the thirties and forties at Berkeley High. This article details a memorable Chenier performance in the Tournament of Champions in high school.
Once a member of the Cal varsity, Chenier stepped into the starting lineup and averaged 10.3 ppg, despite having to work for his shots. As a junior, he dominated games for the Bears, averaging 16.3 ppg (18.3 in conference play). That Cal team had Chenier at off-guard, Ansley Truitt at center, Charlie Johnson at the point and Jackie Ridgle scoring 17 points per game at forward - and they still couldn't get above third in the Pac-8. Everyone who complains about Ben Braun (ourselves included) should be forced to study the Jim Padgett era of California basketball. Chenier was named to the first-team All-Pac 8 squad at guard (alongside Paul Westphal of USC, a pretty good tandem).
Despite his athletic gifts, Chenier was a hard worker who was twice named Cal's most improved player. He was also a team player who involved his teammates in the offense, averaging 3.5 assists per game over his two seasons. These traits, in addition to his smooth jumper and his size (6'4"), made him an attractive pro prospect once Spencer Haywood's attorneys struck down the NBA's restriction on underclassmen.
Given Padgett's limitations, and the departures of Ridgle and Johnson, perhaps Chenier made a wise choice to enter the supplemental "hardship" draft (as it was inelegantly known) in 1971. He was picked in the first round by the Baltimore Bullets, who soon moved to Washington and won a world's championship with Chenier in the backcourt. Phil made three All-Star teams over nine years in the NBA, before a back injury forced him to retire. Today Bears in the DC area (or those with the right TV package) can watch him call games for the Washington Wizards.