Over the past two seasons Brandon Rachal played mostly a supporting role for a talented Natchitoches Central (La.) High program that won a state title a year ago and made it back to the state final last season.
Rachal’s days of being a secondary option appear to be over, at least based on his play for the Nike EYBL’s 17U Elfrid Payton Elite team. This spring and summer the 2017 combo guard has blossomed into the team’s top scorer (14.7 points per game) and rebounder (8.3 rebounds per game) on 53 percent shooting and added 1.2 steals a game.
With Rachal leading the way, E.P. Elite (10-7) qualified for the 24-team Peach Jam, which is July 8-12 in North Augusta, South Carolina. Scout recently rated him as a four-star recruit and No. 62 in its Class of 2017 rankings.
“Not a lot of people expected me to do what I’m doing now,” Rachal told the Cajun Redzone. “I’ve played at Natchitoches Central for loaded teams with so many weapons. When we got to AAU, I kind of snuck up on people. I’ve always known what I was able to do. It’s been a great experience and fun going against top competition. I’ve learned a lot and it’s made me a smarter player.”
His impressive play with E.P. Elite led to the versatile 6-foot-6 guard with a 36-inch vertical leap being invited to the Nike Elite 100 Camp last month in St. Louis. The four-day basketball and life skills camp included the nation’s top 100 underclassmen.
“I was excited to know that people recognized me as one of the top players in my class,” he said. “It’s a blessing to get some national recognition. All my coaches and teammates helped to put me in this position.”
Rachal claims offers from USC, Wake Forest, Miami, Creighton, Kansas State, Tulane, UTEP, UMass, UNO and Louisiana Tech. Others expressing interest in the two-sport athlete — he also plays receiver for Natchitoches Central’s football team — include Louisiana, Texas, LSU, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Wichita State, ULM and Southeastern Louisiana.
“The college coaches I’ve talked to say they like my style of play and that I don’t quit,” Rachal said. “I can be a real good fit for teams that play fast and a lot in transition. I hustle and I’m good at finishing in transition and doing whatever I can to help the team win. My dad used to tell me to play smart and that I don’t have to be the most athletic player on the court if I rebound, defend, run the lane in transition, make my teammates better and play an all-around game offensively and defensively.”
Given he still has two more years of high school hoops, Rachal is less concerned with his recruitment right now and more focused on getting better and helping E.P. Elite and Natchitoches Central win games.
Rachal adds he will consider several factors when it comes time to make his college choice.
“What matters to me is how good the coach is and his history, who is coming back for their team, the other players they’ll have coming in and how I’ll fit into their style of play,” he said. “Location is also a big thing for me. I just want to make sure I’m comfortable at the school and in that environment.”
Rachal made an immediate impact as a freshman, averaging 3.2 steals per game and making the all-district team for a 31-3 Natchitoches Central squad that won the Class 5A state title. He had 12 points in the 5A final against Scotlandville Magnet to secure the program’s first state championship.
This past season as a sophomore he earned all-district and all-area honors after averaging 10.4 points, six rebounds and three assists to help the Chiefs (29-3) make it back to the 5A title game. Last fall he was named the 2016 all-star game MVP at the Combine in the Capital, which included nearly 200 of the state’s top high school players, after a scheduling conflict left him unable to play with his own age group.
Rachal — who played mostly point guard last season — has worked diligently this summer to improve his consistency as an outside shooter.
“I’ve been doing a lot of shooting because I want to become a knockdown shooter,” he said. “When you can shoot the ball it opens up so much in a game. If you look at any offensive threat in high school, college and the NBA they can shoot the ball.”
By playing for E.P. Elite, Rachal has developed a connection with former Ragin’ Cajuns standout and current Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton.
“I’ve been able to ask him about the experience of getting to the NBA and playing in the NBA,” Rachal said. “I admire any person that can make it to the NBA out of Louisiana. Most people don’t take Louisiana basketball seriously, but Elfrid shows that we can do big things and get to the NBA.”
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