What’s it like being on a D-1 sports team? Anything surprising?
BR: There are so many sacrifices. There are also all kinds of great things, like being a little celebrity. People recognize you when you go somewhere and they’re thanking you. They see you and know you and stuff,. It’s always a great experience and you appreciate that.
As for the schedule, basketball is year-round. Whether you’re up there for the summer or not, you’ve got to train. You’ve got to push yourself and make sure you’re getting in the gym every day.
You get back to school and it all starts a week after. We have team workouts with running and conditioning, and we’re also playing pick-up every day. Practices start around Halloween, the first week of November, and from then on you’re trying to play all the way until April. It’s year-round, every day, every hour of the day. Even on days off you’ve got to work out, stay in shape and stay strong.
Especially me, I’m not only 5′ 11″, but I’m only 160-165 lbs, playing against these guys who are 200 lbs. It was worse at first. I was about 135 lbs when I first came in.
Who’s your best friend on the team?
BR: Definitely Andy Rautins. He was my roommate for my first two years. He’s a great guy. I remember when I first came to Syracuse, Bernie told me I’d be roommates with this redshirted senior. We had no idea who each other were but we hit it off right away and became great friends.
He helped me right when I got there, pushing me to the next level. I’d look at him playing 25-30 minutes and it made me want to push myself to get where he was. I admired and appreciated that, and you still see him doing that now, playing professionally.
Tell me something I don’t know about Dion Waiters.
BR: He was my junior year roommate.
So you’ve got a lot of dirt then.
BR: [Laughs]. People can say, “I love the game more than anybody,” but that’s a guy who breathes, bleeds and is basketball. He’s a great guy and a great competitor; very hard working.
But, something you don’t know? I think he’s since retired from it, but he used to think he was going to be the next big rapper. There still may be some videos left on YouTube.
Let’s talk about the future of Syracuse. What are your thoughts on the Orange moving to the ACC?
BR: Tradition-wise, it kind of sucks. Leaving the Big East, the whole idea of the Big East Tournament, and all of those rivalries…But the ACC is as good a conference as the Big East and competition-wise it won’t be a loss for SU.
You were part of, arguably, the most successful years Syracuse has ever had. What was it about that group of players that allowed for so much success?
BR: The two years before my freshman year were when the team was screwed out of a spot in the NCAA tournament. Johnny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins had the mentality, “We don’t want that to happen again.”
I remember freshman year when we were something like 27 and 6 going into the tournament and still those guys were worried about getting in!
It was all about learning from the past. We thought, “Let’s not even put ourselves in the position where we could not get into the tournament.”
So it was great leadership and great prior experience.
What’s Jim Boeheim like as a coach?
BR: My experience was good. He kept it very business-like: we’re here to play basketball. You’re the player and I’m the coach. There is never a misconception. You have to know what you’re doing, from the walk-on to the manager to a starter for the team. You know what your job is and you know what you’re expected to do.
Jim doesn’t need to remind you every day, but if you’re slipping up and not doing your job he’s going to make sure you know [laughs].
That’s when you see him yell and scream and get on you. But even if he is yelling at you everyday, you’re working hard and you know this guy thinks that highly of you and appreciates you, so you take it as a positive thing. It’s a good growing process and learning experience.
You may not have gotten the most playing time, but you were a fan favorite. How did you resonate with the fans without much airtime?
BR: I think it was my determination. Coming in at the end of the game, no matter if its only a minute-and-a-half, I’m running end to end, contributing as hard as a can, trying to score, trying to get a guy an assist, trying to steal and trying to play like I’d play if I were in the whole time with that same high energy.
You don’t necessarily expect to see that kind of energy at the end of the game. Then all of a sudden this short guy comes in. I think people just appreciated seeing that and enjoyed it.
What’s next for you?
BR: I’m just trying to keep doing my dream. When you’re young and people ask you what you want to do and you reply, “I want to play professional basketball,” they laugh and say, “Yeah well…”
It’s not even to prove everybody wrong, it’s just to fulfill the dream for yourself. So I want to keep playing basketball as long as I can, for as long as my body can hold up and play at that competitive level.
I’m looking at a couple of teams in different countries and different leagues. It’s a whole process and it’s an exciting experience. You have an agent and people talking to you; you have to handle money. That’s the biggest thing I learned at Syracuse from Andy and the guys that did go pro. Even from Coach Boeheim, how to handle things at a professional level in a professional position, it helps with everything now.
I’m going to end up in Israel most likely. It will be a good starting point for my playing professional basketball.
And after basketball?
BR: After that, I’m not really sure yet. Coaching is something I have always wanted to do. I want to stay within the game. My life has been basketball for 18 years now and I want that to continue, whether it’s as a player or a coach, however it may be.
[Image via Brandon Reese]