Throughout his Gaucho career, junior forward and team captain Chris Devine has fought through great pain, much in the same way he fights for loose balls during each and every game. Since rebounding from two years of injuries, his dedication and determination have continued to impress all of his teammates.

“He really leads by example,” sophomore guard Justin Joyner said. “He plays the game with passion and it’s fun to see a guy that’s been around so long succeed like he does. He’s like one of those warrior-type guys that will do anything to win. Every team needs one of those guys and he definitely does that for us.”

Prior to being recruited by UCSB, Devine grew accustomed to winning during his years at Chugiak High School in Alaska. He guided the Chugiak Mustangs to regional championships in his final two seasons and led the squad to the Alaska State Tournament each year there. The possibility of future titles became essential as the Eagle River, Alaska native pondered his next step.

“I talked to a lot of low-end Pac-10 schools,” Devine said. “And you really have no chance of competing for a league championship at an Oregon State. But here, pretty much every year you’re at least in the running. I’ve got a chance to be a champion and I didn’t want to be on a losing team every year.”

Devine’s desire to win swelled as he sat on the bench for his first two seasons with various injuries. Difficulties with his wrist and knee kept him out of the 2003-04 year while pre-season surgery denied him again the following season. Devine decided to make the most of each year he redshirted to give him an edge over the competition.

“The first year I’m thinking, ‘A lot of freshmen redshirt,’ so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Devine said. “The next year I was ready to go, and a week before the season, I had surgery so that was tough. But now that I look back on it, it gave me a lot of opportunity to work out, gain weight, gain knowledge and learn the system. It was awesome. I gained 30 pounds in a year and a half.”

Although it was his third year at UC Santa Barbara, Devine’s freshman season was historic. He scored 355 points in that year, more than any previous UCSB freshman and was third best with 171 rebounds and 31 steals. As the only player to start all 29 games, Devine cemented his role on the team and finished with a Second Team All-Big West selection.

“It was just really cool to finally play,” Devine said. “I was working out a ton, getting in shape, and I did a lot of work on my own time, way more than I’ve ever done in my life. Even after two years off, I felt like I jumped in and was right in the swing of things. I didn’t feel rusty or like I had to get used to anything. My first year playing, I almost felt like one of the vets because it was my third year with pretty much the same system. Most freshmen don’t have the opportunity to be a vet in their first year.”

Reliability and Devine became synonymous during the 2006-07 season when he posted five double-doubles, scored a career-high 28 points against Pepperdine and started each of the team’s 29 games yet again. After sitting on the bench for such a large portion of his Gaucho career, Devine knows the value of being able to play every time he steps onto the court.

“I’m to the point where I’m consciously never going to miss a game because after two years, I never take one for granted,” Devine said.

Now a junior for the second consecutive season, due to being awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Devine is averaging 13.7 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per contest to go with a team-high 25 steals. In four Big West contests thus far, he has combined with one of his best friends, senior guard Alex Harris, to serve as the conference’s top scoring duo, with 33.5 points per game.

“It was tough watching him have to battle through injuries,” Harris said. “So I’m really happy for him that he gets to play a lot more now and fully enjoy his experience. I understand how much he enjoys it and how much pride he has in playing for UCSB and I appreciate it.”

When he finishes his career as a Gaucho, Devine will undoubtedly be among the top players in school history. He currently remains 18 points shy of the 1,000-point mark and sixth all-time with a 54 percent field goal percentage at the start of this season. With all that said, Devine would like to be remembered for something else.

“A Big West championship,” Devine said. “That’s it. Honestly, I’m content with that. I’d like to see guys like Al [Harris] as the all-time point leaders, but I just want to be on a championship team.”

Devine’s immediate focus is on this Saturday’s game at Cal Poly, but after next year’s senior season, he will weigh his options.

“It’d be cool to go play if the opportunity presents itself,” Devine said. “But if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe I’ll go to Thailand and kick it for a while. I just want to enjoy myself and be comfortable.”

One thing is for sure, his contribution to the UCSB men’s basketball program will never be forgotten.