When Stephen Domingo left St. Ignatius High School unexpectedly after his junior season to enroll early at Georgetown University, it was a move that was ridiculed from the start.
But after two years in Washington, D.C., the most ballyhooed prep basketball player in San Francisco since 2002 — when Riordan's Marquise Kately signed with Cal — received minimal playing time and decided it was time for a change of place.
He picked Cal over Gonzaga and has been working out with the Golden Bears since the beginning of June, choosing to come back to his roots and finish his college career close to home.
"It feels great to be back home," said Domingo, who will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules. "I love San Francisco and I'm the biggest proponent of the Bay Area."
Before his sophomore year at SI, Domingo had coaches from all over the country using their frequent flyer miles to come see him play, salivating over his 6-foot-7, 200-pound frame and 3-point shooting ability.
While receiving an ample amount of attention from every national high school source, Domingo averaged 15.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 blocks per game, and was named to the All-West Catholic Athletic League second team. He had drop-off in production his junior season (13.3 and five rebounds per game), yet still was named to the All-WCAL first team and never scared off Georgetown coach John Thompson III, who offered the city star a scholarship.
Domingo later was selected to be a member of the United States under-17 team, where he averaged 7.8 points per game and helped the Americans win a gold medal at the FIBA World Championships in Lithuania, while playing alongside recent No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks, Duke), Stanley Johnson (Arizona) and Jahlil Okafor (Duke).
However, in his two seasons playing for the Hoyas, Domingo struggled to take off his warmups. The slender swingman barely played five minutes a game, scoring only 29 points and shooting a meager 27 percent from the floor.
Even though there was frustration and disappointment from not getting playing time, Domingo doesn't regret the move out East. He had nothing but pleasant things to say about his two-year run in the nation's capital.
"My first year at Georgetown, I got to go against Otto Porter [now with the NBA's Washington Wizards] every day in practice, which was a fascinating experience," Domingo said. "I felt like I learned a lot about college basketball and practiced against some great players. It was a positive experience."
He's no scrub, but due to his inability to get onto the court, Domingo has had to watch several players in his age group get drafted in last month's NBA Draft (Mitty's Aaron Gordon, Parker, Julius Randle, etc).
When he did play, he failed to show the shooting prowess that helped him become a hot commodity. Now, he's eager to show that he still deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those players.
"It's great to see guys I've been teammates with and competed against get drafted," Domingo said. "It's a great motivator to get back to that level of play here in Berkeley."
Domingo, who is only 19, is currently playing against professionals and a slew of college players in the San Francisco Pro-Am for SF City, and last week, he had the opportunity to play alongside All-Star Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
Domingo doesn't regret anything that's happened in the past. The political economy major believes uniting with first-year Cal coach Cuonzo Martin is a blessing, and under Martin's guidance, he can reach his basketball potential.
"The way I look at it, I have my whole basketball career and life ahead of me," Domingo said. "Now I get 16-17 months to work on my game and get to the point where I can help coach Martin contribute to winning here. I just want to help put the University of California back on the map."