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Posted On: 12/4/17 6:35 PM
The John Carroll Patriots are off to a commanding 3-1 start to their season after learning a few days before their opener, they’d be without their star point guard and Kentucky commit Immanuel Quickley for the first couple weeks. That hasn’t stopped them from capturing some telling victories against teams such as Mt. St. Joseph, Calvert Hall and most recently, St. Mary’s Ryken.
Just because Quickely is sidelined doesn’t mean the Patriots are short on talent. They still have senior guards in Montez Mathis (Rutgers commit), Nigel Haughton and junior forward Yavuz Gultekin. There’s also been a new face in the lineup that has wasted no time in making his presence felt. Senior guard Brandon Craig has been arguably the most well-rounded player for head coach John Zito.
Not many have heard of Craig before this season, and that’s because he transferred to John Carroll in October after moving from Tennessee to be closer with his family. The 6’3 guard is from Jackson, Tennessee where he played for the University School of Jackson, which is a small private school. Craig averaged 18.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game his junior season.
When you look at Craig’s game now, he’s the definition of a two-way player. Much of his offensive improvement came this past summer when he locked in on specific areas.
“I wanted to improve my shooting and just attacking the basket with more confidence,” Craig told Prep Hoops. “I feel like I really got better at both of those things this summer and it’s carrying over into my play here.”
Transfers are always put in a tough position to find their role quickly. Because Craig is a senior, that process was a little easier because he was mentally prepared for it. Thus far he fits Coach Zito’s system perfectly and fills a vital role for the Patriots in being a lockdown perimeter defender. Against Mt. St. Joseph, Craig held one of the best juniors in the area, James Bishop, to just two points. He credits who he has to guard in practice day in and day out.
“It’s just heart, hustle and a bunch of hard work,” Craig said of his defensive prowess. “I have to guard Yazuv, Montez and Immanuel in practice, so it translates perfectly into the games.”
For Coach Zito, Craig’s ability defensively allows him to use different schemes with Mathis, and soon Quickley, to save some their energy for the other end of the floor. They’re already averaging 80.2 points per game without Quickley, so that number could certainly increase once he returns. In big games against the top of the MIAA A Conference, Craig will show his worth. He’s already proved his effectiveness against two of the league’s best perimeter scorers, and I expect that list to continue to grow.
Craig isn’t being recruited by any schools at this point. With his transfer and success at John Carroll, his name should be on many low-mid Division I lists considering how many ways he can impact a game.