Alan Stein, the well-known strength and conditioning coach at national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic (Md.), posted on his Stronger Team Blog recently about how specialists are important to all basketball teams. In the blog Stein said, “A player that makes a team great is more valuable than a great player.”
This quote brought one player in the New England area to my mind: Joe Bramanti.
After a great career at Andover High School -- which included an ESPNBoston All-State selection, last March -- Bramanti is in a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy, where he serves as the team’s defensive specialist. Following the Bobcats' thrilling win over Tilton (N.H.) at the Hoophall Classic last weekend, Brewster head coach Jason Smith told ESPN Boston's Brendan Hall, “We're not undefeated without Joe Bramanti.”
We decided that it would be important to breakdown the value of Bramanti by using film, because sometimes players of his caliber do not stick out or get noticed like a big-time scorer or shot-blocker would.
Setting the Tone
Bramanti had a tall task going into the battle against the Tilton. He was forced to guard a player five inches taller than him by the name of Georges Niang, a 6-foot-7 Methuen native who is ranked in the ESPNU 100 and signed with Iowa State for next season. Bramanti, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, set the tone early to make sure Niang knew that he would have to work for every basket on the night.
On this play (one of the first plays of the game), Bramanti is not too physical with Niang, but lets him try to get in his element instead. He banged him up a little before he gets the ball back the second time, which prompted Niang to push back. Bramanti dodges the push, and Niang ended up traveling with the ball. This set the tone for the rest of the game.
Bramanti is what I like to call a "pest defender". He does everything in his power to make life difficult for whomever he’s guarding. For those that are fervent pick-up basketball players, he is that player that does not look like much but gives you fits when the ball is in your team’s hands. He just finds a way to be as annoying as possible on defense.
In the first clip Niang got away with a basket, but Bramanti did what he could to take the ball away. In the second clip Bramanti battles with Niang on the block to establish position. Once Niang finally got the ball, he got frustrated and took it strong to the hoop where Jakarr Sampson was waiting to take a charge.
The third and fourth clips are arguably Bramanti’s most impressive defensive possessions. In the third clip, Bramanti gets on the floor to prevent Niang from getting an easy lay-up. In the fourth clip, he denies Niang from getting the ball, which forces Nerlens Noel to pass to Wayne Selden on the perimeter with limited time left on the shot clock.
The last three clips are of Bramanti preventing a potential fast break dunk (although Mitch McGary ends up goaltending on Selden), and Bramanti being a pest guarding Dominique Bull.
Bramanti did not guard Niang for the entire game, but there is something to say for him only scoring a few field goals while Bramanti was on the floor. After all, Niang usually puts up over 20 points per game and only scored nine in this contest.
It is pretty clear that on the defensive end, Bramanti is fearless. He did not get to show it in this game, but we know that Bramanti is just as fearless on the other end of the floor.
There was one play where Bramanti put this fearlessness on display.
In this clip Bramanti scores a reverse lay-up on two of the best shot-blockers in New England in Noel and Goodluck Okonoboh. This is the perfect “read and react” play too. As Semaj Christon penetrates, Bramanti cuts under the hoop at the perfect angle. The fearlessness factor comes in when Bramanti scores on the two big men without any hesitation.
Joe Bramanti is not a star. He is the definition of a specialist. He’s an average athlete and offensive talent, but he can guard anyone regardless of their size.
I’ll make it simple: if Bramanti can shut down Georges Niang, he can do the same thing to a majority of Division 1 basketball players. He deserves to be considered a Division 1 player, too. All college basketball teams harp on defense, so why hasn’t Bramanti gotten the looks he deserves?