Aggies Land Blue Chip Guard

He may be three years away from Aggieland, but Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon has hauled in one of the top prospects in the country from the class of 2011. Aggie Websider visits with the newest commit about his decision and why he chose Turgeon and the Aggies.

One of the top basketball prospects in the class of 2011 has reaffirmed his verbal commitment to Coach Mark Turgeon and the Texas A&M basketball program. Jamal Branch, a 6-foot-3.5, 165 pound guard from Atascocita (TX) took an unofficial visit to College Station this weekend and the trip apparently sealed the deal for one of the top prep guards in the nation.

"Yes, I committed to Coach Turgeon today," Branch said. "Everything about the university, the basketball program, and the coaching staff just felt right. It's a perfect fit for me."

It wasn't just one factor that influenced his decision. Specifically, the nationally-elite guard was attracted to Coach Turgeon and the emerging basketball program at Texas A&M that has played in three straight NCAA Tournaments and has settled into the upper echelon of the Big 12 Conference.

"I know Coach Turgeon from our days living in Kansas and he turned around the Wichita State program there," Jamal's father Jerome said by phone. "He's known as a good man and someone who develops talent and gets the most out of his players."

Jamal added his specific reasons why he chose the Aggies to play his basketball at the collegiate level in three years.

"I like the coaches personally, and I like the system. They are aggressive and play an up-tempo style that fits my game," Branch said. "Other things outside of basketball are important to me. I want to be an engineer and A&M is a great engineering school. It's also close enough for my family to come see me play."

It's unique to see such a highly-touted basketball prospect aspire to be an engineer, but his father says that he's taught his son to be a well-rounded person with many interests and activities.

"We've always focused on academics and Jamal has always been a good student and he wants to study engineering," Jerome Branch said. "You know that when you mention Texas A&M, you think of a great engineering school. "

Some observers have questioned why young basketball prospects like Jamal feel the need to verbally commit so early to a collegiate basketball program. But once it was clear Texas A&M was his top choice, the Branch family had strong reasons for publicly committing and ending the recruiting process once and for all.

"We're so blessed that Jamal has so many opportunities. He had serious interest from 19 major D-1 schools," Jerome Branch said. "By making his decision, he can focus on his academics and those things that are important to a high school student. He's also very active in his church and his community as well, so getting this off his plate is a positive for him."

Just because the Houston area prospect has other interests outside of basketball doesn't mean he's not working hard in the gym improving his game every day. Besides his extensive AAU basketball schedule in the spring and summer, Branch is currently working on his own in the gym to sharpen his skills for the upcoming high school season.

"I'm lifting weights to get stronger and working on improving my foot speed, but mainly I'm going through shooting drills every day," Branch said. "I wake up at 4:30 every morning and run. Then I go to the gym before school and shoot 2000 shots all over the court, but mainly from the outside."

Last October, the blue chip guard made a commitment to the Aggies after their Midnight Madness event, but after talking to his father he realized that he needed to evaluate other programs before making a final school choice. According to Branch, he was receiving serious interest from his top list of Texas, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, Florida, and Duke along with the Aggies.

So does this commitment announcement officially end his recruitment?

"Yes, this is final. I'm off the market. Even when I rescinded my original commitment, I always felt that A&M was my school but my father wanted me to look at some schools to make sure," Branch said. "I'm not going to look at any other programs. This is it for me."

As a consensus national Top 10 prospect, Branch marks the highest-rated Texas A&M basketball commitment in recent history, and marks the highest-rated prospect to commit to Mark Turgeon in his eleven year head coaching career.

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