For nearly twice a week since mid-November, there’s been a free certified clinic on hoops at UCSB, put on by trained professional Cameron Goettsche at the Thunderdome. In just its first year on campus, Dunking 101 has delighted and dazzled, igniting a popular following among its mesmerized audience. Yet despite being a master of his trade, this high-flying dunking disciple is content with his 40-minute show during UCSB men’s basketball games.

“I just love to dunk,” the sophomore forward said. “I’m always thinking about how I can get up in the air.”

A newcomer this season, Goettsche has proved to be one of the most potent aerial forces in the Big West. Standing tall at 6’9″ and 225 pounds, Goettsche’s game is in the air. On the offensive side of the ball, UCSB opponents have quickly realized that the no-fly zone doesn’t apply to most places on the court for Goettsche. In transition, he’ll electrify with the monster ally-oop or crash the boards for an authoritative offensive put-back. Despite giving up considerable size to other bulkier posts, Goettsche elevates well enough to snag rebounds out of the air, even if he’s been battled out of position on defense.

“It’s in his legs,” senior guard Nick Jones said. “He’s so used to running the floor and you can just see that he’s ready to go up for a big dunk.”

Goettsche’s leaping ability grew steadily during his tenure at Thunder Ridge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., where he first started playing basketball and realized his talents. As a prep All-American at Thunder Ridge in his senior season, he averaged 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, setting records for most slam dunks in a season (69) and a game (9).

“It was in my sophomore year, in the summer playing in the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] ball in Vegas,” Goettsche explained. “I dunked on a few guys and all my teammates were looking at me like ‘what’s going on?'”

As a prized post prospect in 2001, many schools came courting. Famed college basketball mastermind Rick Majerus of the University of Utah closely beat out UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams and also his second tier schools of Marquette University, Oregon and Wyoming in the initial recruiting process.

“It pretty much came down to Utah and [Santa Barbara],” Goettsche said. “Coach Majerus was a very convincing guy, you know. I was 18 years old and Coach Majerus, a big time name, had just taken them to the NCAA finals a few years back.”

Goettsche redshirted for the Utes but tendinitis in his knees flared up and doctors couldn’t put a finger on the problem. After an injury-plagued experience at Utah, Goettsche drew a change-of-heart for the sunny beaches of Santa Barbara.

“I love surfing, you know,” Goettsche said. “But Coach [Williams] told me to leave my surfboard and mountain bike at home and there would be plenty of time to do all that after I’m done.”

According to NCAA regulations, basketball players transferring from Division I schools cannot compete in games for a year and Goettsche couldn’t be confined to a year of inactivity. So in 2002 he packed up and went across town to Salt Lake Community College where he maintained his verbal commitment to the Gauchos while honing his skills for the 2003-04 Gaucho campaign.

“When I decided I wanted to leave Utah, I called up Coach Williams. I wanted to be at UCSB,” Goettsche said. “After he took care of all the legal stuff, getting the release and all that, I told him that I really didn’t want to sit out a year and he totally understood.”

A devout student of the game of basketball, Goettsche has emerged as a formidable threat above the rim and credits his dunking antics to his study of college and NBA dunking contests.

“I can do just about all those dunks you see on TV,” he said. “I’ve never lost a dunk contest.”

Although bench time would probably replace some hard-earned minutes if Goettsche ever flashed too creative of a dunk during a game, he hasn’t ruled out the two-handed reverse windmill given the right moment.

“In high school, they said my vertical was 42 [inches], but I don’t believe it,” Goettsche modestly admitted about his pre-injury hops. “I can get my wrist just above the [shooter’s square] on the glass but [freshman forward] Glenn [Turner] can do that, you know.”

Starting 11 of 16 games at forward this season, Goettsche is second on the Gauchos in points (127), averaging 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, fifth and second respectively. Goettsche shares in the team lead for blocks (6) and offensive rebounds (29) on a Gaucho team that struggled mightily in both categories without him a year ago.

“He’s a great rebounder,” sophomore guard Cecil Brown said. “If a shot is put up, you have to know that there’s going to be a second [shot] opportunity because he’s going to get the rebound.”

“He’s one of the quickest jumpers I’ve ever played against,” senior forward Bryan Whitehead said. “Even when we’re on the same block.”

So sign-up for Dunking 101. There’s plenty room available for the free bi-weekly dunking clinic going on over at the Thunderdome.