DOWNEY − Downey is known for a lot of things.
It’s the aerospace city that helped get man to the moon. It’s the Los Angeles suburb of fast-food royalty, helping to launch giant restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and El Taco.
It’ll never cease to be the hometown of Richard and Karen Carpenter, but fast forward into the 21st century and there may be a new name in Downey’s hall of fame: Brandon Chavers.
Unlike previous standouts, the 24-year-old Downey native stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall, 250 pounds and is known for his performance on the basketball court.
After two years of playing at the college level, Chavers signed over the summer to play professional basketball for the San Luis Santos in Mexico.
However, the brawny forward, who averaged 10 points and three rebounds per game during his last season at Bristol University, had a difficult road early on, plagued with setbacks and missteps.
“I never took school serious and it hurt me,” he said. “It kept me from getting to the big stage faster.”
Playing since the age of 5, Chavers remembers playing basketball at the Downey YMCA and Apollo Park motivated by his basketball loving father, Lloyd. What started off as a hobby, quickly turned into a passion for the younger Chavers.
“I stuck with it. It’s always cool being a part of a team that all your friends are a part of,” he said. “Kobe, LeBron, Camelo – those were my heroes.”
Fortunate for Chavers, he had the talent to match, which led him to a junior varsity spot on Warren High School’s basketball team in his freshman and sophomore years. By the time has was a junior, Chavers was on the varsity team.
Unfortunately, his love of basketball had a negative effect on his grades, placing his promising path on hold as Chavers was reassigned to Columbus High School to finish his senior year.
“If I could’ve come back to Warren, I would’ve played college basketball, but I had to take care of business,” he said. “My parents were upset, but they didn’t stop encouraging me.”
Motivated to reclaim his childhood dream of playing basketball professionally, Chavers rallied to graduate from Columbus High and in the course of a year, he was ranked as one of the best players in his division at East Los Angeles College.
While working to obtain his associate’s degree, Chavers moved up north to play basketball for Santa Rosa Junior College before returning to Southern California the following year to play at Bristol University in Anaheim.
Chavers’ performance in the 2014-15 season at Bristol was stellar enough to garner attention from pro teams.
“I kept going back and forth about finishing school, but if I have a chance of getting paid to play basketball, I’ve got to take advantage of that,” he said.
Along with his manager, Chavers fielded offers in Mexico and Israel, but ultimately decided to settle on playing in the birth country of his mother: Mexico.
Raised in a biracial home, Chavers, whose father is black, speaks and writes Spanish fluently, an asset he’ll now use as a member of the San Luis Santos, a popular team with Mexican basketball fans living in San Luis, which is five hours north of Mexico City.
“It’s cool to play pro, you get treated well, extra this and that, but it takes up a lot of your time,” said Chavers who left Downey in October to begin training camp in San Luis. “My mom always makes jokes that I’m here, but never really here.”
Nonetheless, Chavers, who began his 2015-16 season on Nov. 1, encourages other aspiring athletes to dream big and work hard if they want to reach professional status.
“As someone who didn’t come from a bigger basketball program without many resources, I had to keep on working,” he said. “It was something I wanted so I couldn’t let outside influences stop me.
“But as much as the game takes from you, it gives you a lot. In the end, it’ll be worth it.”