Now that August is here, John Brandenburg can enjoy consecutive days at home
in St. Louis (Mo.) and a little rest. His busy last month-plus of
basketball and travel included Charlottesville (Va.) for the NBA Players Association
Top 100 Camp, North
Augusta (S.C.) for the Nike Peach Jam, Orlando (Fla.) for the AAU Super
Showcase and Shawnee Mission (Kan.) for the Price Chopper/Kansas City Prep
"It's been really nice to finally get a break," Brandenburg admits.
"My body was getting
pretty sore toward the end of the [AAU] season. I'm just laying low for a
couple weeks, and then I'll start hitting it hard to get ready for that high
The 6'11" 225-pound center from De Smet Jesuit High School plays his travel
basketball with the St. Louis Eagles, and the competition that afforded him this
summer was excellent. More than any other position in prep basketball, the
center too often matches up against weaker or smaller opponents in high school
games. Traveling across the country and battling with the nation's elite
big men markedly helped Brandenburg's development this summer.
"It's a great opportunity to play at NBA camps and with a team like the
Eagles, who go to the best tournaments," the center explains. "We've
played against 10 to 15 of the Top 10 players for the 2008 and 2009 classes this
year. I've played against the best people, and you can't get that anywhere
else. It's been a real honor to play with these guys."
Brandenburg, ranked by Scout.com as the #15 center and #83 overall
player in the Class of 2008, feels that his progress has come faster on one end
of the floor than the other.
"Definitely I've become a really sound defensive player, and I feel like
that's something I can hang my hat on," he explains. "I'm really confident in my defense.
I feel like I can guard anybody. But the problem is that I lock up myself
every night on offense. I have to get that part down, and then hopefully
I'll be a more complete player."
"Defense is really important," Brandenburg continues. "You just can't
take plays off. That's one of the big things I learned in AAU this year.
If you take a play off against one of these types of players, they'll score on
you. Every play you have to be fronting the post. You have to always
have your feet set and be down low enough that if they take a jab one way, you
can go and be there ready to stop them."
"On offense, everybody is telling me the same thing: I need a go-to move in
the post," he adds. "When I turn around, there is not one thing I can go
to every time without thinking about it. I really want to work on maybe a
hook shot. That would be really nice to perfect the hook shot in the post
because that could be unstoppable."
"John has a few things going for him that will help him over time," says Dave
Telep, Scout.com National Recruiting Director. "First and foremost,
his size. No matter how you slice it or on what level you see him, he's a
big kid. He'll be able to hold his own in the post and keep others off the
glass. There's a value to what he's able to do by just being a big, strong
kid. Plus, he can run and move."
"If he can find a comfort zone on offense, and by that I mean some type of
go-to-move that he feels confident in, he'll take another leap," Telep
continues. "Second, he plays within himself. Right now he's not
overly confident on offense, so he takes care of his area, finishes when you put
him in position and finds a way to be efficient with his chances."
An additional area where Brandenburg can smile at the end of his busy travel
and basketball schedule is the weight he was able to maintain. The
seven-foot center (he measures 6'11" in bare feet) still tips the scales at 225
pounds after returning home from a frantic July schedule. He hopes to add
a few more pounds this fall and start his senior season at De Smet at 230.
"I really work on my nutrition and my fitness," Brandenburg says. "I
have a trainer and everything, and that's really important to me - making weight
and staying in good shape. That's one thing I've really focused on a lot."
Another important focus for Brandenburg this summer has been his college
recruitment. He was considering five schools in June: Stanford, Virginia,
Wisconsin, Missouri and UCLA. All but the Bruins offered. Then his
play in July picked up the pace, with new suitors coming on strong.
That was exactly what Brandenburg wanted to happen. At least, initially
"I was kind of hoping to get a bunch of new schools interested this AAU
season, but as I kept playing, I just realized how much I liked the schools," he
"I grew to like the ones that were recruiting me so much more. It was just
more of a personal thing for me. I wasn't trying to get schools interested
anymore. I was just trying to play as well as I could against the best
competition. I'm trying to build up my confidence against the best
players, so that I'm ready to play at the next level."
The St. Louis center danced for a while with the two-time defending National
Champions. Brandenburg garnered an offer from Billy Donovan and the Gators
but then turned around and told them, 'No thanks.'
"I had heard some from Florida. I don't know if I got caught in the middle
of some March Madness fever, but I was really liking Florida and they were
liking me," the recruit recounts. "Finally they offered me, and that was really exciting.
But it was just too late. I didn't feel enough of a connection with the
coach, the staff or anybody, so I told them that I wasn't interested anymore."
"Coach Donovan in late July offered," Brandenburg adds. "That was after the Peach Jam.
I didn't think I played that well, but everybody told me I had a great Peach
Jam. I had to turn down a ton of schools after Peach Jam who were pretty
big-time. It was just too late in the game, and I wasn't ready to start a
whole new relationship with coaches. I was happy with my schools."
"UConn came forward," he says. "UNC and Coach [Roy] Williams - I talked to him.
He said that he wanted to take a lot more interest, but I really just liked my
schools at the time."
Most of his peers would have rolled excitedly forward with the new offers and
interest, but Brandenburg instead pulled back the reins and cut his list to two
schools among his original favorites: Stanford and Virginia...
Next: John Brandenburg comments on his final two schools and looks ahead
to his upcoming visits.
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