One-on-One with Craig Brackins, NBA player and former Cyclone

Craig Brackins shoots during the Capital City League game Wednesday, June 20, at Valley Southwoods High School in West Des Moines.

Alex Halsted

From 2007 to 2010, Craig Brackins played basketball at Iowa State, where he averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during his junior season. After that season, Brackins was selected 21st overall in the NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. After a few trades, he settled with the Philadelphia 76ers.

This summer, as Brackins prepares to find a new team through the NBA Summer League, he is spending time back in Ames during the month of June.

What are your greatest memories in your time at Iowa State?

Just walking into Hilton; that’s always my favorite. Walking in there, it didn’t matter from my first game to my last game, I always had chills. Knowing the fans were there supporting — I didn’t have the greatest ISU teams, but people still came out through storms, through everything, and it was always great fan support.

You went to Brewster Academy and Melvin Ejim went there. What role did you play in bringing him to Iowa State?

When he came on his visit is when we kind of connected. I followed him and watched him play, and it was one of those things when he came out we talked about Brewster, and we talked about Iowa State. He just wanted to know my route and why I chose to come here because I had a lot of other offers and everything.

I just told him straight up: It’s great fan support, and if you want to play in front of a crowd that loves you and always supports you, you come here. I guess it worked, and he really loves Iowa State.

Right now Royce White is going through the NBA Draft process. What do you remember about your process?

For my situation and what I remember is more like the mental. You always have to be mentally ready, because you can have three workouts in three different states in three days. Basketball is going to be basketball; we’re all players, and we’re all Division I athletes, so it’s going to come, but it’s the mental of knowing you have to come and prepare and show your skills every night.

What have you enjoyed about your current NBA career, and what are you going to be doing this off-season?

Things I enjoyed are just being around my teammates, learning from the veteran players we have, hanging out with the young players. The relationships that I’ve developed just in the league with the other players — it’s such a big family that everybody knows each other.

My route was hard the first two years not playing, but I think I learned so much that now when I get my chance I know what I have to do, I know what it takes. When you get there it’s such a mental thing, and you have to understand there are different situations for people; you can fit in a situation or you can’t, and I guess you have to figure yourself out in the league.

What was the experience like to be with a team that made the playoffs?

[It was a] great experience, I didn’t go to the NCAA [tournament] at all being at Iowa State, so being part of a playoffs and something so magical was crazy. The runs that we had, the teams that we had and being there [in the] playoffs first round my rookie year and then semifinals this past year … it was just a great experience.

You’ve been back to Ames for a game and now this summer. What is your current connection with the team and university?

Jamie Pollard, I still talk to him, he’s a great athletic director. Coach [T.J.] Otzelberger, I’ve known him for a long time, so I’m still talking to him. Even though Fred [Hoiberg] came in and my coach is not here, I still developed a relationship with Fred and still talk to him because he’s been in the league for 10 years, so he knows my struggles and I can talk to him and see what he says, and it’s always knowledge I can take in.

You spend a lot of time on the court, but what do you enjoying when you get a second off the court?

Well if I’m here in Iowa, it’s hanging out with the guys — all the current guys, picking their brains and hanging out and laughing. If I’m at home or something, it’s just hanging out with my family, my mom and my little brother.