City College graduate, filmmaker, keeps legacy of championship season

Former City College student captures the joy and pain from men’s championship basketball season.


David Ahumada

San Diego City College graduate David Pradel captured the ups and downs of the men’s basketball championship season. By David Ahumada/City Times

Vicky Pineda, Assistant Sports Editor

This story originally appeared in the spring 2019 edition of the Legend magazine

David Pradel was a student reporter for Newscene during the fall 2016 semester, working on a sports news package for the weekly television news broadcast, when he noticed something.

Pradel, who played basketball during high school, discovered something different about San Diego City College men’s basketball team that made it unique.

He noticed the players became more than teammates. They became brothers.

“They were all in it to win,” said Pradel, who was working toward an associate degree in communication and had already obtained a degree in journalism at the time. “When they told me that they were going for the state championship in the interviews, I didn’t think much of it because that is something they typically say. 

“It wasn’t necessarily the way they were playing. It was the way they were acting on the bench.”

Pradel had no idea when he started, but by the season’s end, the Knights would finish as state champions, a first for City College.

During that unexpected run toward a title, Pradel lived experiences that he would later on cherish, some captured by his camera and other in his memory.

Pradel said he would park his car by Harry West Gym even when he wasn’t covering basketball games and eat his lunch. He would watch the men’s team practice to kill time before reporting on other sports. 

“Seeing the love they had for each other as brothers — they weren’t just teammates, they were family,” Pradel said. “I learned a lot just from watching them, and hearing what coach Mitch (Charlens) had to say during practice. There’s things that you can take away from that and apply it and use it for life.”

Daivd Ahumada
The men’s basketball team because a family on the road to a state championship. By David Ahumada/City Times

Being a support system to others and not letting anybody feel down after they made a bad play were values Pradel took and applied to his media studies.

While at City College, Pradel took courses in Radio, Television and Film as well as Digital Journalism. He also reported for Newscene, the City Times and Legend magazine, winning awards for his work. 

“Being there for someone else, that stuck with me since that season, always lending a hand, being there and appreciate the person that is next to you,” Pradel said. 

A month after the Knights won the championship, on the morning of April 18, 2017, one of the Knights’ leaders, Nate Edwards, took his own life.

“During the season, he was the guy that was pushing me,” said Pradel, who is now studying Television, Film and New Media at SDSU. “Every time, before the game, he would come up to me and ask me how I was doing and (say) ‘I appreciate the video you made.’ That made me feel great.”

Through it all, Pradel gained skills that would help him not only produce an award-winning documentary about the Knights’ winning season, but open a discussion about mental health and suicide prevention within a community in which is it often overlooked.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The organization, though, estimates actual numbers to to be higher due to the stigma surrounding suicide that leads to underreporting.

Having a mental illness like depression significantly increases suicide risk among black teens and adults, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

As a high school student at Clairemont High, Pradel worked on high school sports highlight videos. When he started City College, he was interested in TV media, but wasn’t really into hard news, preferring sports.

Pradel started with the City Times in 2014 as sports editor. That was when he first met Charlens and started his sports reporting.

“I did a year at City Times, got the hang of it all, writing for print, interviews, getting a feel for sports reporting,” said Pradel, who won second place for a profile in Legend magazine at the 2014 Journalism Association of Community Colleges Southern California Convention.

During Pradel’s final semester at City College, he took Radio News Production with professor Scott Chatfield. Pradel recalled that he didn’t think audio was a big deal before the class, but he learned valuable audio editing skills in this class. 

David Ahumada
David Pradel was inspired to creating something that honored the memory of Nate Edwards. By David Ahumada/City Times

“If it wasn’t for this class, I don’t think I would’ve learned so much about audio storytelling and how to tell a proper story through audio,” Pradel said. “I started to play with audio, something different, something new.

“(It) kinda inspired me to think outside the box when it comes to telling a story with images, (to) not just think about the images. Think audio first.” 

Pradel learned a lot in his time at City College, from audio, storytelling, meeting the deadline and perfecting his interviewing skills.

Pradel, edited, narrated, directed and produced the entire “The City’s Champions” documentary. 

“I thought about having an assistant but this a passion project for me,” Pradel said.

One of Pradel’s creative consultants was Billy Khang, a former City College student who worked with Pradel on Newscene.

“David’s eyes would light up when he talked about the men’s basketball team,” wrote Khang in a Facebook message. “When David had told me that one of the players had taken his own life tears came down his eyes.” 

Khang, who now works for KYMA News 11 in Yuma as a multimedia journalist, encouraged Pradel to go through the process of creating the documentary. 

“David was the closest person from Newscene to the team,” Khang wrote. “When he thought about the idea of making a documentary I told him he should. I motivated him to put everything he had in this story so that others who might be suffering as well can do something and maybe he could save a life. 

“I’m so proud of David and everything he’s done with the documentary. To David it was more about using the funds generated from the film and setting up a scholarship for the players children. That’s how big of a heart David has. It’s always in the right place. Proud to call him my friend and colleague.”

The documentary won an award for best student film in the Oniros film awards in Italy. Pradel will also be screening the film in New York in June, and will be joined by Nate Edwards’ mom, Cassandra Edwards. 

Pradel and Cassandra Edwards recently returned to City College for a screening of his documentary and a discussion with City College’s Mental Health Counseling. Charlens was also there.

“This film is so well done, it stirs up all the same emotions as when it first happened,” Charlens said.

Pradel has a new project in mind and is planning to use his skills he has learned at City College and from Nate Edwards to do more than being a multimedia journalist.

“I did it for him,” Pradel said.  ”You can (also) say because of him, that’s how I was able to make sure this idea never just faded, because if he was here he wouldn’t want me to give up.”

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night, text COURAGE to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or chat online.