Aberdeen grad Devon Branch a JUCO standout
The Holiday Inn in Aberdeen wasn't exactly where Devon Branch hoped to be after graduating high school in 2008.
Branch, a first-team All-Harford County selection for the Eagles as a senior, had received interest from George Mason, Tennessee and Virginia Tech for his basketball talents. But when his SAT score came up short of NCAA qualifying standards, Branch decided to take “a year off to mature myself and get ready” for college.
“It was good,” Branch said of his time at the Holiday Inn. “Some days I worked in the kitchen as a dishwasher. Some days I helped the maids make the beds.”
Branch, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard, never stopped working on his game during his year away from school. That work ethic served him well during the 2010-11 season, when he starred as a freshman for the Cloud County Community College team in Concordia, Kan.
“It went pretty well,” Branch said. “We went 19-11, lost in the first round of the playoffs. I was the starting shooting guard. I [averaged] 17 points a game, four rebounds, two assists.”
Branch was discovered by the Cloud County staff at a showcase near Washington. He also considered junior colleges in Texas and Georgia, but ultimately settled on the rural Kansas school.
“It was a big change for me,” Branch said. “[There are] lots of fields, [and there] wasn’t a lot of people. [It was] tough to adapt to. … [but] I knew it was my second chance that I needed, so I just really buckled down and talked to my family every other day. They told me to keep striving, that I’ll be all right.”
Branch’s performance freshman year generated a good deal of college interest. The former Eagles star said he’s heard from Arkansas-Little Rock, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, Missouri State, VCU, West Virginia and Wichita State. Branch said he hopes to commit at the end of August.
Devon Saddler, the reigning CAA Rookie of the Year at Delaware, is Branch’s cousin and former teammate at Aberdeen. Branch often goes to Saddler for advice on college basketball life.
“We always talk about it,” Branch said. “It was like one of us had to take the long route. It just happened to be me. I’m happy he’s out there doing his thing.”
Branch, who will serve as one of Cloud County’s captains this season, said he’s looking forward to another former Aberdeen star – guard Gerrae Williams – joining him on the Thunderbirds’ roster. Branch is hopeful that both players’ goals are within reach.
“I’m just looking to be the first person to graduate college in my family and just go somewhere where education [comes] before basketball.”
Handout photo of Devon Branch courtesy of Cloud County Community College.