Branch To Transfer

The Texas Aggie basketball team absorbed one of many blows this season as highly-touted freshman point guard Jamal Branch asked head coach Billy Kennedy for his transfer this afternoon. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop has the details.

When the Texas Aggie basketball team hit the court on Thursday night against the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys, their point guard of the future was nowhere to be found. Even injured post Kourtney Roberson was on the bench on crutches, but no sign of freshman Jamal Branch.

Immediately following the game, head coach Billy Kennedy announced that his back-up point guard had decided to ask for his transfer papers.

"Jamal Branch and his father decided to look at some other options and transfer today," Kennedy said. "We wish him the best. We are going to have to be real efficient in Big 12 play to have an opportunity to win against the opponents we're going to play."

Branch was logging significant playing time as the back-up point guard averaging 18 minutes and 4.2 points per game. He also had 28 assists to his credit.
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But what will hurt the Aggies the most in the short term is his ability to guard man-on-man. He was the team's best pure defender and his departure will force bigger, slower guards to take on quicker point guards. His departure also puts Texas A&M in a precarious situation with senior Dash Harris as the only pure point guard on the roster.

In the longer term, Branch's transfer leaves the Aggie basketball program in dire need at the court's most important position. Coach Kennedy signed nationally-touted J'Mychal Reese in November, but that is it. The Aggies were counting on Branch and Reese to be the core strength of this team for the next 2-3 years. With Reese recovering from knee surgery over the summer, many questions remain as to who will handle the ball for the Aggies next season.

Branch had been Texas A&M's most heralded recruit since DeAndre Jordan in 2007, and he had been committed to Texas A&M and head coach Mark Turgeon for three years.

In his place tonight, the Aggies moved two-guard Elston Turner to the point when Harris needed a rest. In the second half, Kennedy experimented with little-used walk-on guard Blake McDonald.

Kennedy mentioned in his press conference that Branch's request to transfer this afternoon came as a surprise to him and the staff.

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