Rarely does the country's economic recession mix into the conversation about basketball recruiting and high school hoops, but it's now relevant in the case of Texas A&M point guard commitment Jamal Branch and his family. According to Jerome Branch (Jamal's father), an employment opportunity in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has the Branch family relocating from the Houston area. It also has the top point guard in the state of Texas changing schools as well, leaving Humble Atascocita for a likely destination at Arlington Grace Prep.
"I've received a good job offer in Arlington and it's a good opportunity for me with the economy struggling," the senior Branch said. "We have family on my dad's side in the Fort Worth-Hurst area so it's a good fit. We're looking forward to it. It will be tough for the kids to leave their friends at Atascocita, but they'll make new friends in Arlington."
For now, the plan is for Jamal to enroll at Grace Prep Arlington, a school with a rich academic tradition and outstanding athletic programs as well. Standout guard Nick Russell who eventually signed with Kansas State, was a high impact player for Grace Prep last season. However, Jerome Branch made it clear that academics come first in choosing a school for his kids.
"It's always been about academics and challenging my kids. We moved from Kansas City because I didn't think the educational system there was what we needed. I want to challenge my children and get them ready for college," Branch said. "As far as Jamal goes, he's currently going through all the testing to be accepted into Grace Prep."
Prior to the decision to move, Jamal surprised a lot of observers by announcing he wanted to play football at Atascocita for his junior year in addition to basketball. While there has been speculation that he would give up the idea of playing football once he entered Grace Prep, it appears Jamal will strap on the pads and put on the helmet this fall according to his father.
"We've talked to the football coach there at Grace Prep and they are excited to have him," Branch said. "He has the playbook already and he's looking to get started on August 10 with the rest of the team. Jamal has always liked playing football and missed it last year."
But basketball will always be his bread-and-butter, and the 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard has had a very busy and productive summer attending several elite camps in addition to the AAU circuit with the Houston Swoosh. In fact, Branch has the summer basketball world buzzing again after having what many observers felt was a disappointing spring by his standards as a nationally prominent Top 20 national player.
"Jamal has had a great summer distributing the ball and playing good defense," Branch said. "He was exceptional at the Deron Williams Camp and he competed well at the Lebron Camp. He had a great performance at the King City Classic with 10 steals in one game."
His performance there garnered rare praise from one of the top college coaches in the business, John Thompson III. While leaving the gym, Jamal's father ran into the Georgetown coach who stopped him to deliver his appreciation for his son's abilities.
"As we were leaving the game, he told me ‘I've only seen two players in my life who could thread the needle on a one-handed cross-over bounce pass. One was Allen Iverson, and the other is your son'," Mr. Branch said. "Jamal has really worked hard on his distribution and creating opportunities for his teammates."
The elder Branch is also excited about his son's future teammates at Texas A&M, having watched 2010 commits Tobi Oyedeji and Daniel Alexander at a recent summer camp.
"Coach Turg has some good players coming into the program," Branch said. "Tobi did really well and he's coming into his own, and Daniel can simply stroke the ball from anywhere on the court. Both of those guys showed strong at these national camps against the best talent in the country."
Jamal continues his busy summer with the big Las Vegas AAU tournament coming up as well as the Adidas Nation tournament in Dallas from August 4-9. The next day, he begins two-a-days for football at Grace Prep.
Branch Switching High Schools
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