Long journey to DePaul has built Brandon Cyrus for success

For many collegiate athletes, the start of their college career is a transition that requires significant adjustment. For Brandon Cyrus, it is business as usual.

Cyrus, the No. 25 shooting guard in the country, is set to make the jump from the La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind. to Chicago's DePaul University this fall. While the move would be a major change for most players, Cyrus has been preparing himself for this moment since he was 14 years old.

By the time Cyrus arrives on campus at DePaul, he will have moved four times in the past four years. During this time he has found tremendous success on the AAU circuit with the CIA Bounce, as well as on an international scale with Team Canada.   

Each stop along the way has provided a crucial step in his growth, both on and off the basketball court.

In the summer of 2012, Cyrus and his family moved from the frigid city of Toronto to the Mediterranean climate of San Diego. While he was disappointed to be leaving his hometown, he was not fazed by the move to the California coast.

"I didn’t really mind moving from Toronto to San Diego, just because I knew I was going to that great weather," Cyrus said.

Great weather was not the only benefit he would reap in San Diego. Shortly after his arrival, Cyrus attended the Kawhi Leonard Skills Camp. It was here that the athletic shooting guard exploded onto the recruiting scene and captured the attention of college coaches across the nation.

Nick Diaz, a counselor at the camp who would become Cyrus' personal coach, was blown away by what he saw from this little-know guard that was preparing for his freshman year of high school.

“You could tell he was the best player at the camp," Diaz said. "You could just see the talent that he had. It’s very hard to play Division I basketball, but after watching him for a week at the camp, you could tell he was going to be one of those guys. Very athletic and long. His shot needed a lot of work, but you could tell he really wanted to learn. He had an insane work ethic for a kid."

Cyrus enrolled at Torrey Pines High School that fall and played under head coach John Olive, a former Big East star at Villanova. Olive returned to his alma mater after a three-year stint in the NBA, where he was an assistant coach on the 1985 national championship team.

Diaz, a Torrey Pines alum, joined Olive's coaching staff as an assistant. Under guidance of these two, Cyrus was able to stay grounded despite the hype that followed his breakout performance at the Kawhi Leonard Skills Camp and appointment to the varsity squad as a freshman.

"Coach Olive really helped him stay grounded," Diaz said. "You see a lot of kids today that go and start tweeting out every single offer they get. He was never going to do that. We told him that he is not going to be one of those kids that publicizes everything. He just worked hard in the background, and it really paid off."

As a freshman, Cyrus was the team's second-leading scorer. He was also tasked with guarding the opponent's best player almost every night. During this freshman campaign, Cyrus showed flashes of greatness, but it was as a sophomore that he emerged as a true star in the making.  

Cyrus led Torrey Pines in scoring, earning first-team all-league honors as a result. After the season, he made the realization that in order to take the next step in his development, a new challenge was necessary. Cyrus took his talents to the La Lumiere School, one of the most prestigious high school basketball programs in the country.

While the transition from Toronto to San Diego was rather seamless, the move to Indiana was slightly more turbulent.

"Moving from San Diego to Indiana was a huge shock for me," Cyrus said. "There is nothing like that Southern California lifestyle. I was going to the beach after practice, hanging out with my friends and waking up to 75 degree weather every day. Then I move to Indiana and I’m sitting in my dorm room, there’s no beach and it’s freezing outside.”

Adjusting to the Indiana climate was not the only adversity Cyrus would face upon his arrival at La Lumiere. For the first time of his high school career, he was no longer a primary focus of the offense.

"When I first got there it was really tough," Cyrus said. "I was used to being the man on the team and having the ball in my hands. I thought I was good, but then I get there and I’m playing with guys like Jalen Coleman-Lands, Isaac Humphries and Nolan Narain, who are all playing at major Division I programs now."

This adjustment proved to be a blessing in disguise for Cyrus.

He learn how to contribute as a member of the supporting cast, a situation he will likely face as a freshman at DePaul next season. Most importantly, though, Cyrus' year out of the spotlight allowed him to learn what it takes to lead a team filled with elite talent.

"I wasn’t the main focus on the team, and that really humbled me my first year," Cyrus said. "Going into my second year, I took on the role of a leader. I learned from the seniors the year before and just kept getting better and kept buying into the system. I was able to take a step back and learn what it takes to lead the team. I watched how the seniors handled their responsibilities, and that really prepared me for my senior year.”

Each stop in Cyrus' journey has prepared him for the next chapter in his story. The friends, teammates and coaches left behind, the new relationships built and the adjustments along the way have laid the groundwork for success at the next level.

Danny Amponsah, who has coached Cyrus with the CIA Bounce since he was 12, has witnessed his growth through these experiences.

"He has a ton of experience going into different situations and finding a way to be successful," Amponsah said. "He went to San Diego and worked hard to prove himself and become a star. Then he goes to a prestigious program in La Lumiere and had to prove himself all over again. 

"Each time you move somewhere new you have to prove yourself, and it's going to be the same case next year at DePaul. So when he runs into adversity as a freshman, he is going to have these successful experiences to fall back on."

After shuttling around the country for the past four years, Cyrus is quick to note the relief that staying in one place at DePaul will provide in the near future. He is also looking forward to living in Chicago and returning to the big city life that he became accustomed to while growing up in Toronto.

But more than anything, Cyrus just wants to bring back a winning culture to DePaul, something that has been absent from the program for the past decade.

"We have a great recruiting class coming in and a great coaching staff, and I think people are sleeping on us," Cyrus said. "They’re not expecting us to do much, but I know how great we are going to be. And I’m looking forward to proving people wrong."

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