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 Invitational.
"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 school season."
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 he did.
"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 explains. "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."
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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