by Brandon Bracy
In the year 1999, I sat in the living room with my father watching a NBA Playoff matchup between the Lakers and the Spurs. As an eight-year-old, I wasn’t into the game of basketball yet but I knew the “big name” players of the 90s such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal. As I watched my first basketball game from start to finish, the two players that stood out to me the most were Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. After watching them play, I grew a love and passion for the game of basketball. Little did I know that watching this one game in the living room would lead to a long career involved with basketball.
After watching the fundamentals of Tim Duncan, and the electricfying moves of Kobe Bryant, I found myself spending countless hours working on my game. It became a routine to do my homework and then walk to Cooper Elementary (Vallejo, CA) to run pick-up games outdoors. The year is now 2005 as I head into high school with hopes of becoming a college basketball player. Attending Vallejo High School was something that I always wanted to do after watching former McDonald’s All-American, Demarcus Nelson. The school pride and the way the community embraced the school were reasons why I wanted to play basketball for the Apaches.
As my high school career went on, reality started to sink in that I may not be a Division 1 college basketball player. The dreams of playing for Duke, or UCLA seemed impossible. Despite not being recruited by any Division 1 schools, I kept hope alive by playing college basketball at the junior college level. The year is now 2010 and the achievement of playing college basketball had been checked off my list. I was able to have a good year for Solano College as a 6th man. Despite the success, I wasn’t able to earn a scholarship but I was able to earn two AA degrees and attend New Mexico State University in 2012.
Going from Vallejo, California to Las Cruces, New Mexico was a major change for me seeing as I was only 20 years old. New state, new environment, new people, no friends, no family. All I had was classes to pass, people to meet, and the game of basketball. I had hopes of being a walk-on at the school, so I would find myself emailing coaches, and attending open gyms. After attending several open gyms, I was invited to try-out for the team as a walk-on. Rumors that the school hadn’t picked up a walk-on in over 5 years were hovering over me but an injury to the starting point guard at the time made it possible to earn a spot. I can remember sitting in my dorm room excited to showcase my ability, playing moves over and over in my head just ready to play. As try-outs came, I noticed only 4 people were attendance including myself. “We are going to put you guys through drills, and we will run a 2 on 2 at the end,” a coach said. I can remember giving it my all, diving for loose balls, knocking down open shots, being a leader, and doing whatever it takes to make the team. After the try-out I was pretty confident that I would earn a spot on the team. “Yo Bracy…you have a sec” the coach yelled out. I responded, “Absolutely!” Nervously walking into the coaches office, I sat in the chair and waited to hear what the conversation was about since I was the only one in the room. “Mr. Bracy, I just want to let you know that you really impressed us in your workout,” a coach said. “We think you can be somebody that could possibly be added as a walk-on, we just need to know if you could accept that role” the coach added. “Yes sir! I will accept any role, I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” I responded. “We will have the head coach look over the film and we will give you a call sometime this week” the coach said. Feeling excitement and joy I responded, “Thank You Sir!”
Waiting for a phone call, I found myself glued to my phone. I even thought about calling my family to let them know I won’t be coming home this Thanksgiving and Christmas break because I will be playing for New Mexico State. As time went on, the phone never rang. Days turned into weeks, the phone never rang. I can remember being inside my dorm room feeling hurt, the dream of playing Division One had opened and shut down once again. I didn’t play basketball nor watch it for two weeks, it was just school until I was asked to play in an intramural league. Taking out all my frustrations in the intramural league, I found myself averaging over 25 points per game. Feeling the excitement about playing the game once again, I emailed several division 2 schools back in California for a possibility of playing next season. The only school that gave me a chance was Pacifica College in Southern California.
Pacifica was coached by former professional overseas player Jeron Roberts. As the Christmas break approached in 2012, I drove from Las Cruces, New Mexico back to the Bay Area but made one stop in Southern California to workout for Coach Roberts. After working out, Coach Roberts offered me the opportunity to play for Pacifica College for the 2013-2014 season on a partial scholarship. My basketball career was back alive and I was motivated more than ever to finish up the year at New Mexico State and play for Pacifica.
As the summer of 2013 ended, it was time to get ready for a new chapter. Conditioning was brutal, but I had one thing in mind and that was to have a monster year. I had worked my way into the starting lineup and we were scheduled to play five Division One schools during preseason. Things were looking great until a week before our first game, the athletic director told me that my financial aid did not clear and that I had a week to pay $7,500 or else I would be removed from the school. The news left me devastated as I knew I was unable to pay this fee in a week. I was able to play in my first and last game for Pacifica College in Colorado, as I finished with 14 points and 5 assists. It was an emotional flight back to LA as I knew this would be it, and I would have to head back to the Bay Area. From this moment the transition from Player to Coach was in play.
After coming back home to Vallejo in 2014, I knew my playing career was over but I had two tasks in mind, to finish my education, and to begin my coaching career. I was able to enroll in Cal State East Bay in the fall of 2014, and also coach as an assistant at Jesse Bethel High School. It felt good to coach my little brother Malcolm Bracy and his peers for the year, and give them all my insights on the game. The more I coached, the more I grew a passion for it. However, one phone call would change my mindset to coaching forever. This phone call would come from Antonio Hodges who was involved in revamping the North Vallejo Little League baseball program, and had coached many great athletes out of the Vallejo area. “Brandon, you need to be more involved in coaching AAU and help build a brand from Vallejo” Hodges said. “I’m starting up Team Rampage and I want you to be the face of it” Hodges added. I agreed to do it, but I remembered how nervous I was to do something of the magnitude that he described. I had gone from getting ready to play college ball to being heavily involved with coaching and starting up a program within a year.
2015, the birth of Team Rampage comes. Players from Jesse Bethel and Vallejo High School, and even Oakland were all excited to be a part of the organization. The first year was tough but we were able to brand the name and help turn it into a household name. In 2016, more players from different areas like Benicia, Fairfield, and even Modesto came out. We were able to produce more college basketball players and finished the season with a 31-7 record, including being two games away from winning the Big Foot Hoops Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. I also graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2016, achieving what I told myself I would do once I left LA.
After having much success as a coach, I decided to showcase my ability to develop players as a trainer. “Bracy’s Skills Clinics” was the name that I decided to give myself for my own brand.. Through networking and staying in the gym, I built a reputation for developing players.
In 2017, Team Rampage completed its third season and featured five teams, and five more coaches. We now have players from all over Northern California and, through the connection of Director Hodges, we are now building a “Team Rampage LA.” It’s funny how everything came back full circle with me leaving Los Angeles to be involved with Team Rampage, and now we are going back to Los Angeles to involve them with our program. Today, I am still developing as both a coach and a trainer but my journey is far from over. Next month, I will be receiving my Master’s degree from Concordia University (Irvine, CA), and the “Rampage” brand and “Bracy’s Skills Clinics” brand will continue to grow. It has been almost 20 years since I sat in the living room and watched my first basketball game, and it is pretty amazing to sit back and go over the journey that it took to get here. Today I am known as Coach Bracy instead of Brandon Bracy the basketball player. No matter where this journey leads me next, I am addicted to the process and the work that it takes to be successful!
» Read more in-depth analysis of basketball coaching in my `Coaching is a Risky Business’ cornerstone article.