LAKEWOOD RANCH — Amad Brayboy had something to prove.
The Out-of-Door Academy freshman knew what he was capable of, but he was still adjusting to being back on the court after spending the offseason playing football, and having a new set of teammates — the majority with whom he had never played before.
But it didn’t take long for the 15-year-old small forward to come into his own.
In his first game with ODA at Northside Christian, Brayboy scored 34 of his team’s 56 points.
“I hadn’t played in a long time and I wanted to show my coaches that I could play basketball,” Brayboy says. “I thought it was best to just show (them) on the court.”
It didn’t take long for first-year head coach Marcus Liberty to realize he had something special in Brayboy.
“When I first saw the kid, he was just going through the motions,” Liberty says. “The next day, he just lit it up and played hard. I thought, ‘Where has this been?’ You can see when he’s on the court that he’s a kid who loves the game.”
Brayboy began playing basketball when he was in fifth grade, after joining a league at G.T. Bray. There, Brayboy met ODA teammate Chase Maasdorp. The two formed a friendship and began hitting the court together on a routine basis.
“I wanted to be in the NBA,” Brayboy says. “I saw LeBron James and I wanted to be like him, so I started playing with other kids.”
Following his first season at G.T. Bray, Brayboy joined his first travel basketball team with Maasdorp.
Brayboy has been playing AAU basketball ever since, and he now plays for Reebok Select.
Prior to the start of basketball season, Brayboy played football for ODA with intentions to get in shape for basketball and the contact that comes along with it; he didn’t want to be afraid to compete against players who were older and bigger.
The plan appears to have worked.
Brayboy has scored in double figures in five games this season, averaging 24.2 points in that five-game span.
Although Brayboy admits a feeling of pressure comes with being the leading scorer on his team, he tries not to let expectations overshadow his play on the court.
“I try not to get frustrated,” Brayboy says. “I just try to do my best and get everyone involved. I feel pressure, but I try to keep my composure and just play and give it my all.”
He may only be a freshman, but Brayboy already has demonstrated to his coaches that he’s willing to accept the challenge of being the leader of this year’s team.
“He reminds me of myself,” Liberty says. “You hear all the time how great you are, but I try and remind him that how far you go is how far this team goes. He still needs some guidance and has a lot to learn, but I just try and remind him to stay humble and not get caught up in all of the hoopla.
“He has a high talent level, and he’s only going to keep getting better,” Liberty says. “He just has to remember to never settle for where you’re at. You have to have a goal and, right now, that’s to help ODA be the best it can be.”
Although the Thunder has yet to win a game this season, Brayboy has used each game as an opportunity to learn.
Eventually, Brayboy has aspirations of playing in college and eventually the NBA. But his focus is on helping lead the Thunder to its first victory of the season.
“My goal is to do my best and get some wins for the school,” Brayboy says. “I want to get other people involved in the game besides me having to do it all. I just want us to perform to the best of our abilities.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.