Varidel on worldwide journey
Chaminade’s players returning from last season aren’t the only Silverswords who know a thing or two about upsets.
The additions for this season include Christophe Varidel – a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast, one of the biggest surprise teams in last season’s NCAA tournament.
“It really showed that everything is possible,” said Varidel, who averaged 6.2 points per game last season for the Eagles, primarily as a reserve.
After playing six minutes in a win over Georgetown in the NCAA round of 64, Varidel scored 11 points in a victory over San Diego State that put 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast into the NCAA regional semifinals, where the Eagles’ season ended with a loss to Florida.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Switzerland then transferred to Chaminade, and has scored 72 points in three games, including 42 – one short of the EA Sports Maui Invitational record – in a 93-77 first round loss to Baylor on Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
“I would say I was most impressed by how skillful the players are,” Varidel said of his new teammates prior to the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of shooters. I came from a program where there were a lot of shooters.”
The Silverswords are trying to win Maui games in consecutive years for the second time in program history – Chaminade defeated Texas last year. Varidel’s long-distance shooting could help – he went 10-for-16 from 3-point range during Monday’s game, and is 15-for-28 this season.
Varidel is second in FGCU history in 3-pointers, with 177.
“He’s a winner. He’s coming from a winning school,” said Lee Bailey, one of four Silverswords on this season’s roster who were part of the victory over the Longhorns.
Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said of Varidel: “He plays with a lot of confidence. He doesn’t care who the competition is against.”
As the Eagles made their run last season, Varidel’s clicking of his heels after baskets began gaining some attention.
“I did it last year, but I’m done with that,” he said, noting that it was simply an expression of his love of the game.
“I just enjoy being in the gym, with the team or by myself,” he said.
Among those involved with this year’s Maui Invitational, few know about Varidel’s attitude better than Patrick Pierson. The Arkansas men’s basketball communications director arrived in Fayetteville in June after three years as the FGCU sports information director.
Pierson cited the example of Varidel’s role changing from his freshman season, when he started 20 games for coach Dave Balza, to his last two years with the Eagles, during which he came of the bench in Andy Enfield’s system.
“Christophe had to adjust when Andy was hired,” Pierson said. “The second part of his freshman season, he was our best player, no doubt about it. A lot of guys could handle that the wrong way, but last year, Christophe accepted his role, and he continued to be that shooter off the bench.”
Varidel has been shaped in part by his travels. He played in the under-20 European championships twice, in Croatia and Austria, and attended high school at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be around a different amount of places,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to do that, and to do it while studying.”
Even after attending FGCU, with a campus that includes an on-campus beach, Varidel has embraced living in the Aloha State, and finds time for stand-up paddling, which he first tried while in Switzerland.
“You can just enjoy being out there when there’s no waves,” he said. “And when there are waves, that’s something even more.”
* Brad Sherman is at email@example.com