ST. MARYS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Among Charlie Breindel’s first memories are those of being inside a gymnasium. The sounds of whistles blowing. The screeches of shoes pivoting on hardwood.
Since about the time Breindel could walk, the recent Elk County Catholic graduate had a basketball in his hands.
He was dribbling a basketball while he was still a dribbling toddler.
His father coached the sport in the Cavalier youth program. His brother, Alex, played at a high level before him.
But Charlie Breindel was something of a late bloomer. Sure, he was a good player as early as the fifth grade, but he was nothing like the standout he would become in high school.
“I was kind of chunky,” Breindel said. “When I was younger, I was not the quickest. Not at all. I was the slowest of everyone. I mean, I was really slow.”
Between his eighth- and ninth-grade years, though, his body changed. He grew into his weight and the agility followed.
Suddenly, Breindel had the quickness to go with his shooting touch. His game evolved. His star rose.
By his sophomore year at Elk County Catholic, he was on the varsity roster. By his senior year with the Crusaders, he was a leader and a clutch scorer who helped ECC to 24 wins and a spot in the PIAA Class A semifinals.
Breindel led the Crusaders in scoring at 12.6 points per game in his final year, but the 6-foot guard was at his best in the pressure cooked that was the playoffs.
He scored a career-high 28 points in a 63-53 win over perennial power Farrell in the second round of the state tournament.
A few days later in an upset win over Union-New Castle, Breindel poured in another 24.
Even against powerhouse Bishop Canevin in a 47-21 loss in the semifinals. Breindel scored 13 and was a leader for the Crusaders.
After the loss, he made a point of greeting every ECC fan who had made the journey down to Tippin Gymnasium on the campus of Clarion University to see ECC play.
“My dad and brother always pushed me to be that guy, to be the person who wants the ball in their hands all the time and wants to take control of the game,” Breindel said. “I enjoyed having that role.”
Breindel was one of the unquestioned leaders this past season on a young ECC team.
He and fellow senior Luke Jansen were role models for the more inexperienced players.
“I’ve always been told that I have leadership ability,” Breindel said. “Obviously, me and Luke, we’ve had great people ahead of us. Those role models we looked up to, going through the Cavalier program, and then when we were moved to varsity in high school, we learned from them.”
Breindel had long had a goal to play in college. He will achieve it this winter when he suits up for Penn State Behrend, where he will study environmental science.
Behrend shot to the top of his list fairly late in the process. Head coach Dave Niland was a big part of the reason why Breindel opted to head west for Erie.
“I always wanted to play and be a Penn State Nittany Lion,” Breindel said. “Coach Nilan was talking with me and it just worked out.”
His brother had something to do with it, too.
Alex Breindel, who is four year older than Charlie, is now at Penn State Behrend.
“To have the guy who always pushed me through my entire life, to have him there, was something I couldn’t pass up,” Charlie Breindel said.
Breindel’s other choice was Carlow University in Pittsburgh, which couldn’t be any more different than where he grew up in St. Marys.
That was a big part in his decision as well.
Breindel knew he wanted to play basketball — somewhere — beyond high school early in life.
“Probably ever since I first touched a basketball,” he said. “I can remember watching the players on the NBA stage and wanting to be like them. But after you get over the fact that not everyone makes the NBA, you start thinking about playing in college.”
Breindel is certainly thinking about it now. He’s already working this summer to hone his skills for the new world of collegiate basketball.
That’s nothing new. Look up gym rat in the dictionary and you’ll probably see a picture of Breindel attached.
“I’ve been in the gym all the time. It’s my life,” Breindel said. “I’ve just constantly been working out. Obviously, that’s why I’m doing it. I want to be the best I can be.”