Despite growing up a little more than an hour away from College Park, Devon Branch had never attended a Maryland basketball game. That changed last Friday when the 2008 Aberdeen grad took an unofficial visit to see the Terps take on Radford.
“It was pretty fun,” said Branch, a sophomore shooting guard at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kan. “They had a nice atmosphere, especially for Christmas break with not a lot of students there. They had a pretty good crowd.”
The Terps just recently started pursuing Branch, an All-Harford County player who missed NCAA qualifying standards coming out of high school and worked at a Holiday Inn in Aberdeen for a year before resurfacing at Cloud County. Watching Maryland’s 65-60 win over the Highlanders, Branch said he could see how he would fit in with the Terps.
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“[I would] play like a slashing guard and bring more toughness to the team,” Branch said. “[The Maryland coaches] just told me to keep doing a good job. They’re recruiting me real hard and will be out pretty soon to watch me play.”
At Cloud County, Branch has emerged as one of the top junior college players in the country. JUCOJunction.com ranks the 6-foot-5, 175-pound shooting guard the No. 30 sophomore junior college player in the country. Branch is scoring 25 points per game for the Thunderbirds (10-4), and was named the NJCAA Division I Player of the Week for Nov. 28 – Dec. 4.
Assistant coach Bino Ranson has taken the lead on recruiting Branch for the Terps, and the former Aberdeen star said he remembered the UM coach from the AAU circuit when he was playing for the Baltimore Stars. Branch said the Maryland coaches have told him that he would be an “instant-impact” player for the Terps.
“It sounds real good,” Branch said. “I’ve only got two years left to make a name for myself.”
In addition to Maryland, Branch said he’s also being heavily recruited by Oregon, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Wichita State. He plans on taking his official visits in the spring after Cloud County’s season is done.
Branch also took advantage of his time at home to visit Towson last week for the Tigers’ 81-62 loss to Manhattan.
“It was pretty good,” Branch said. “They’re really looking for impact guards to come in and start, just take the team pretty far. They’ve got a couple pieces coming next year but they need another piece.”
Branch is also hearing regularly from Delaware, where his cousin and former Aberdeen teammate Devon Saddler won CAA Rookie of the Year last season and is currently averaging 20 points per game. Branch said spending his last two years of college locally – be it at Delaware, Maryland or Towson – is somewhat “tempting.” But staying close to home is far from his top priority.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m just going with the best fit for me.”