It’s been a long, strange trip so far for Purdue-Cal’s Kaspars Brencans. The 6’8” junior hails from Latvia, went to high school in Florida, spent two years in Findlay, Ohio, and finally landed here in Hammond to play basketball for the Peregrines.

“In about sixth grade, I watched an NCAA Final Four game on TV and it’s been my dream ever since to play college basketball in the U.S.,” Brencans said.

Brencans started attending various European basketball camps as a youth when he met up with German League professional coach Steponas Kairys. It was Kairys who helped Brencans enroll at Florida Air Academy, an international prep school known for developing basketball players.

Brencans spent his junior and senior years at Florida Air, where his game and his 4.5 GPA caught the attention of D-II powerhouse University of Findlay. But a change in Findlay’s coaching staff left Brencans status uncertain and they agreed to help find him a different school.

“(Findlay) just wasn’t the right school,” Brencans said. “It was a really small town and my hometown, Riga, is the capital of Latvia and more like Chicago.”

That’s where Purdue Cal coach Dan Voudrie stepped in. Voudrie had an acquaintance who was a cousin to Findlay associate head coach Dan Shardo. As Shardo was helping Brencans to find another school, he sent an e-mail to Voudrie.

“If Findlay recruited him, I knew he wasn’t a stiff,” Voudrie said. “Our athletic director, our chancellor, our players, and even the international students’ office all met with him and from top to bottom, I think he felt wanted. And I think he liked being close to Chicago and the worldwide name recognition of a Purdue degree.”

Both Brencans and the Peregrines have blossomed this season. Purdue Cal is off to an 11-2 start this season, one win away from the best start in program history. Brencans leads the team with 16.3 points per game and his 5.3 rebounds per game are second on the squad. He also leads the team in three-point and free-throw shooting percentages.

“He’s a typical European in that regard,” Voudrie said. “As kids, they grow up idolizing Dirk (Nowitzki), and Dirk’s game is so efficient. They know the value of putting the ball in the basket.”

The only one more pleased with the situation than Voudrie is Brencans. Besides Purdue Cal, two other schools were trying to recruit him to finish his college career.

“When I was considering transferring, I saw a lot of potential here,” Brencans said. “I really thought I could play with these guys.”

After college, Brencans hopes to play some international ball professionally, but he’s getting his entrepreneurship degree to fall back on. His older brother owns a web development company in Florida and Brencans thinks he’ll follow that lead.

“I’m not sure what it’s going to be, but I think this big idea is going to hit me some day,” Brencans said.

Based on his experiences to date, it’s a good bet that Brencans will be willing to follow wherever that big idea takes him.