When Archie Miller took the helm of the Rhode Island Rams Men’s Basketball program, expected roster transition occurred. Miller got to work on re-assembling the program knowing that the first external commitment carries signaling significance – to fans, coaches, current players, and recruits on the direction of the program.
Against this backdrop, Brayon Freeman’s April 2022 commitment to Rhode Island spoke volumes. A 6-2, 180-pound guard, Freeman earned Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team Honors at George Washington last season where he averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 44% from three-point range.
Freeman paved the way as the first of many talented newcomers to buy-in to the vision and values of Miller and staff and is excited to don Keaney Blue. We caught up recently for an engaging conversation on his journey to date and his enthusiasm about what lies ahead here at Rhode Island.
Chris DiSano: Let’s revisit your time at GW where you played for Coach Jamion Christian, a guy I got to know a bit through the years. He loves to read and lead. What will you take from your time with him?
Brayon Freeman: I have two lessons from Coach Christian because he was big on giving lessons. First, do everything you do with love. He wanted to make sure if you were doing it, you loved it… or if you were doing it for a person, it was because you loved that person, not just because they needed you to do it but because it came from a place of love. Secondly, to go out and believe in myself. There was a point in time at GW when I was on the bench, not really seeing much time. Coach Christian always preached to be ready for the moment. Be ready when your time comes, preparation is everything… and believe.
CDD: The Atlantic 10 is a tough league as you know: distinct coaches, distinct styles, and many talented players. What was the most significant freshman adjustment you had to make last year to be successful?
BF: Honestly, the biggest adjustment I had to make personally wasn’t the actual game itself but my preparation for the game. Coming into college I struggled with practice, and it was my biggest downfall. I couldn’t mentally lock-in all practice long, I would take plays off, high school stuff being a freshman. Not really knowing the true importance of what practice was. In college, practice has a different meaning. Mainly that was my biggest adjustment. It took me a while to understand the importance of practice.
CDD: That’s a great answer. When did you start to drill into the scouts and appreciate how much you had to dedicate to the craft?
BF: I started appreciating it when I was on the bench. It’s crazy about the things you can think of as you’re sitting on the bench. I locked-in and realized the importance of the little things. Not necessarily about the points you can score or assists you can make. The little things are what matter. I had to learn that quickly because I didn’t like being on the bench (laughs).
CDD: Okay, you navigate this freshman adjustment, you’re on the bench understanding and appreciating details. You get an opportunity to play more, and you seize it. You go on a tear late in the year. We spoke about details… what else enabled you to rip off this higher-level play?
BF: The confidence that the coaches instilled in me was big. We struggled throughout the year. Anybody who has lost before knows that there’s a lot of questions after games. The coaches did a great job building confidence anyway. I felt as though I was a leader of the team, and when I felt that, it was a no brainer in terms of comfort – and really helped my play. My teammates did a great job giving me confidence, coaches instilled confidence in me, I paid attention to the little things and it clicked at the right time.
CDD: To your point, the coaches made you feel comfortable so if you had a throw-away you weren’t looking over your shoulder that you’d be pulled. You could play freer?
BF: Yeah. If Coach Christian would’ve pulled me out after all the crazy passes I made I probably would’ve never touched the ball (laughs).
CDD: That’s great. Let’s shift gears. This offseason I know strength and conditioning is a focus for you. How’s it going and what aspects of your strength (i.e. core, etc.) are you targeting?
BF: I’ve been working with Dan (Apodaca). Shout out to Dan, he’s a great strength coach. Trying to get a little more weight on me. Not too much, just enough so I can take a bump, finish more efficiently through contact. Trying to get more athletic and a little faster too now that I don’t have a knee brace on anymore.
CDD: Sticking with program faces, let’s talk Coach Kenny Johnson for a moment. I know you played for him in high school, have a relationship with him. Can you pull back the curtain for URI fans on who he is, your relationship with him, and how that impacted your recruitment?
BF: He’s a good guy, a caring guy. He’s hard on his players but in a good way… he wants what is best for everybody. He’s always there if you need him; if you need to talk he’ll listen. And he knows his stuff. If anybody knows basketball you know his track record. He’s coached with one of the best coaches in college basketball and not many coaches can say that – which itself speaks volumes. I can’t wait to play for Coach Miller, him, and our other coaches this year. It should be fun.
CDD: I know you’ve gotten the general ‘why Rhode Island’ questions in past interviews so we won’t go there. Instead, how about early learnings about Coach Miller during these summer sessions? What have you picked up about him through recent weeks?
BF: Personally, he’s the coach I hoped for as my coach. I’m not saying that because he’s my coach and I’m trying to butter him up (laughs). He holds his players accountable. There are times where I need to be held accountable and sometimes coaches aren’t always big on holding their guys accountable. Coach Miller doesn’t care who you are or what you are to him, he’s going to hold you accountable – whether it’s nice, mean, whispering, yelling… He’s going to hold you accountable. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here. To play for a guy who is no nonsense and wants to win. That’s clear. But overall, he’s a great guy… a guy you can talk to and chat with. Once you get in between those lines, it’s no nonsense.
CDD: What are you seeing from the collection of guys during the summer?
BF: It’s a team that goes 100mph. When you have a guy like Coach Miller at the head, it’s kind of a no brainer. Guys are working hard. Lot of new faces so the chemistry will take some time as to be expected in any situation. These guys go hard every day and you can tell everybody wants to win. Everybody is motivated.
— The GW Hatchet (@gwhatchet) March 29, 2022
CDD: Let’s wrap up with a few quick hitters: Your favorite A-10 venue you played at last year?
BF: Dayton. Dayton is crazy. Sold out arena, like 14,000 people.
CDD: Biggest influences off the court. Who are you going to call first after the game, why, what will you talk about?
BF: I probably wouldn’t call anybody in particular… but me and my family have a little group chat. We call it the Fab Five. After any game… if it’s a good game I’ll text them first, if I have a bad game they’ll text me first… that’s my support system. My Mom, Dad and my two brothers. They’ve been to everything since I was a kid. That’s what makes me tick.
CDD: Lastly, any parting message for the URI fans as you work towards the season?
BF: I can’t wait to play in front of you all. I remember last year when I came here (on the opposite team that game) it was rocking. I can’t wait to play in front of you and get some wins… I know how much winning means to URI Basketball and our fans. I’m not going to sit here and make a promise, but I’m going to give a 110% to make sure I can bring as many wins to this program as a point guard as I can. Winning brings me excitement too. Trust me, I hate losing more than y’all because I gotta go back in that locker room (laughs) every day. You might be able to go home and forget about it… I don’t. Losing is not big on my agenda. I can’t wait to get out there and to meet you all.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44