Jamal Branch decided way back in January that he was going to be leaving Texas A&M for the bright lights of New York City. Ok, well Jamaica, Queens isn’t exactly Time Square, but there are certainly lots of lights and buildings. I digress, but before you categorize Branch as just another player to get lost in the shuffle of Steve Lavin transfer projects, get to know why this kid’s game is as big as the city he’s coming to play in.
Born and bred in Kansas City, Missouri, Branch played his high school ball in Arlington Texas, and was a top-50 player in the 2011 recruiting class. After leading his Grace Prep Academy squad to a state title as a senior in 2011, Branch was labeled the best defensive player in his class by Scout.com, as well as a finalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball award. The 6’3 point guard took his well-rounded game to College Station, picking A&M over more heralded programs like Texas, Kansas, and UCLA.
After averaging 4.2 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game in 18.6 minutes off the bench – including a 7 point, 5 rebound effort against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden during the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament – Branch decided he was going to transfer just a month into his freshman season. Branch committed to A&M because he wanted to stay close to home, and he wanted to play for Mark Turgeon, but when Turgeon took the Maryland head coaching gig before last season, the writing was on the wall for Branch to branch-out and bring his big-time game elsewhere.
Having played against D’Angelo Harrison during his summers in Texas – to the extent that he told SNY.tv “(D’Angelo’s) like my little brother and we always wanted to play with each other. Me and him click well and are looking forward to doing big things,” - Branch has some familiarity coming to Queens, and told the New York Post back in January that he’s looking forward to playing in a big city.
Branch joins Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Amir Garrett as Top 100 recruits from the class of 2011, and should make for a great backcourt mate for sophomore shooting guard Phil Greene. Branch is also one of 11 sophomores/freshmen currently on the St. John’s roster, and won’t be eligible to play or travel with the team until December due to NCAA transfer rules.
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