Almost three years ago Devon Branch was working at a Holiday Inn in Harford County and playing pickup ball occasionally. The former Aberdeen shooting guard said that at that point in his life, he “never thought” he’d end up playing basketball for a high-major school.
But after his post-graduation hiatus from the game, Branch resurfaced at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kan., and developed into one of the most wanted JUCO shooting guards in the country. On Sunday night, Branch completed that seemingly unlikely path from hotel worker to Division I basketball player by committing to Oregon.
“I was real happy,” Branch said. “I just took my visit this weekend. I had a great time. I felt like I was at Cloud County Community College. With the coaches and players, it just felt like home.”
Branch picked the Ducks over offers from Kansas State, Rutgers and Virginia Tech, among others. He is ranked the No. 30 junior college prospect in the country by JUCOJunction.com.
A 6-foot-5, 175-pound sophomore, Branch showed off high-major ability almost immediately at Cloud County. Branch, who said his time away from the game made him “hungrier,” averaged 17 points, four rebounds and two assists as a freshman. He scored 25 points per game, to go along with four rebounds and four assists, as a sophomore.
Branch said Oregon was one of the first high-major schools to express interest in him. Right away, he was intrigued by the Ducks.
"[Recruiting] got stressful a few times,” he said. “Everybody started calling, [trying to] get me to come visit. It was just real stressful, but when I got to Oregon, everything just felt like it was at Cloud.”
The opportunity to play with incoming point guard Dominic Artis, a consensus four-star prospect, and E.J. Singler – younger brother of former Duke forward Kyle Singler – was a major selling point for Branch. He also liked the Ducks’ up-tempo style of play. Oregon finished 24-10 last season and fell in the quarterfinals of the NIT.
“They want me to come in and try to get a starting spot,” Branch said. “They said as long as I put the work in, put the hard work in every day, I should be starting. That’s my mentality coming in – to start.”
Branch said he’s thankful for his time in junior college, noting that he’d be “nowhere right now” if not for his opportunity at Cloud County. He’s looking forward to taking those lessons learned in Kansas and putting them to good use in Eugene, Ore.
While the next two years of Branch’s life will be spent a long way from home, the former Aberdeen star said he’s “excited to meet new people and see another side of the country.” The chance to earn a quality college degree and play in the Pac 12 is something Branch said he won’t take lightly.
“[Oregon is] going to be getting a hard worker who never quits, who brings it every day in practice and in the classroom.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun