Four years ago, during a summer league game in Anchorage, Alaska, the basketball identity of Brandon Huffman was formed.
Filling the lane during a fast break, the then-6-6 Huffman threw down his first in-game dunk.
"I did some kind of wacky celebration," Huffman said. "But I still remember that like yesterday."
Today, Huffman is a North Carolina signee partly because of his aggressive style of play.
"The dunk is a high-percentage shot and that's why i like it," said Huffman, who is now a self-reported 6-10 and 245 pounds. "Dunks look a lot better and they do something to other teams that regular baskets just don't do. Being this big, it's like I might as well. I got into that mindset back then and I haven't gotten out of it yet."
Early in the season, Huffman is leading Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God in rebounds and blocked shots. He also had a 19-point (9-9 FG), 11-rebound game against national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy at the Phenom National Showcase on Nov. 11.
The efficiency and strong play by Huffman is about more than opportunity as Word of God's best big man. It's about a complete mindset restructuring.
"I know a lot better what it is I need to do to be successful now," said Huffman. "I understand that I can't go bad running, can't go bad rebounding and can't go bad blocking shots when the technical things aren't working for me. I think I'm a lot smarter now and I'm playing to the things I already do well while working on the things I don't."
That kind of in-depth self analysis is rare from high school seniors. For Huffman, it's a necessity.
"There's a lot of people in my ear saying this and that," he explained. "I'm just able to see where I'm at. I know I need work and that's something a lot of guys won't tell you. I know I'm not where I'm going to be and that's positive and negative at the same time."
Roy Williams said Huffman has "high upside" and gets better each time he watches him play.
"I think that’s truthful," said Huffman. "That’s good to hear, because I think I work pretty hard and that’s something a lot of people have said about me. To know that I’m coming along, even though I still have a lot of work to do, I think that’s a good observation to make."
Huffman took his UNC official visit on Nov. 13 and watched the Tar Heels win over UT-Chattanooga. He was joined by his mother and father, who were in town for a few days before heading back to Alaska. Though official visits often last 48 hours, Huffman's was only about 12 hours to accommodate his playing schedule and so he could be on campus on a game day.
"I got to see the inside stuff, the stuff outside the court," Huffman said. "I got to see what college film is like. I got to see how the guys prepare and wind down. I was around from the morning through the post-game stuff. I was able to see every step of the game day process. It was a short visit, but while I was there I enjoyed myself."