Lawrenceville Forward Has D-1 Interest

Reporter Brian Towey profiles a forward from Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey ...

In a different twist of fate, Suleiman Braimoh is the designated ringer in the intramural program at your favorite Big Ten school. All 6-foot-7 of him, barking and clapping, spreading the type of infectious enthusiasm that seems to be his trademark.

He could be a first-year engineering student at a place like Michigan. As things stand, he's an intriguing talent and ever-improving postgraduate at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and his coach is quite glad to have him on board, thanks.

"He just turned 17 three weeks ago," said Ron Kane, head coach at Lawrenceville. "This was a kid who started a post-graduate year at 16 years old. He has a tremendous upside. He could still grow some more. He's a legit 6-foot-7. He could top out at 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, and with his wingspan, he's like a seven-footer."

This time last year, Braimoh was averaging 25 points per game at the United Nations International School in New York City, tearing up his private school league as a 6-foot-5 1/2 combo forward. While his potential as a player and passion for the game were evident, the only jersey he was likely to be pulling on after high school were intramural colors.

He had received feelers from Columbia and from some academic Division III's, but had applied to some Big Ten schools, where his basketball career would peter off. Academics were what his parents were about, figuring this basketball thing would run its course. It didn't, and Braimoh convinced his parents, who are from Nigeria, that a post-graduate year could work.

"Coming out of high school, I was only 16 years old," said Braimoh. "Being 16, I had a lot of developing to do. Not only in terms of maturity, but I didn't think my game was where I wanted it to be."

It is beginning to get there. First, Braimoh grew to 6-foot-7 last summer. At that size, he would be more attractive to colleges as an active 4/3. He had never played AAU ball before, but ran with the New York City Jaguars in July, coached by Kevin Hamilton.

Coming out of a relatively weak league, the speed of the game in AAU was an adjustment. But he showed flashes, playing with energy at both ends of the floor, blocking shots, knocking down the occasional mid-range jumper, and going to the glass. He was still slight of frame, but was an active presence, and did enough to intrigue some Division I coaches.

After arriving at Lawrenceville in the fall, his development continued. First, he improved his upper body strength appreciably. Braimoh claims he is now up to 225 pounds, and the physical changes since the summer are visible.

"In general, my quickness and my leg strength have improved," said Braimoh. "Just being stronger complements what I already had before."

His game has continued to expand. In high school, Braimoh was kind of a do-everything type, playing in the low post, but also at times on the perimeter, while capable of defending a couple of positions. With Lawrenceville, he's not your prototypical low post player.

"At the next level, he'll be sort of a combo forward," said Kane. "He's not the type of guy who'll benefit from working on his up-and-under. He's just getting better with his passing, dribbling, and shooting. It's not like you're saying that he's just a slasher; his whole game is developing, and that's exciting."

First, Braimoh plays with a lot of energy. He has a very good motor, and plays hard at both ends. He perseveres on the glass, and will chase rebounds out of his area. Offensively, he likes to face the rim (but can also score with his back to the basket) and can take bigger players off the dribble.

He has to get more consistent shooting the ball and continue to work on his ball skills, but has shown flashes that suggest that he might be able to spend some time as a small forward down the road. He's got great length and a huge wingspan.

What also stand out about Braimoh are his vocal leadership and enthusiasm. He's constantly prodding his teammates, directing traffic on the floor, and exhorting them when he's on the bench. It's clear he has a passion for the game.

Braimoh is now receiving Division I interest. "I'm hearing from some Ivy League and Patriot League schools," said Braimoh. "American, Holy Cross, Columbia, Brown, Princeton. Delaware is interested, and so is St. Francis, Pa. As far as Division IIIs, NYU is the school I like the best."

Suleiman has a strong academic background. He was a solid "B" student at a rigorous academic school in UNIS.

Given how rapidly he has improved in the last year, it will be interesting to watch Braimoh's development. With his upside, we expect he'll land on the Division I landscape somewhere when all is said and done.

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