Teammates see huge potential in Brackins

Nick Paulson

When Craig Brackins, one of the highest-rated basketball players ever to come to Iowa State, leaves school, he wants to be remembered as one thing – “a fun-loving giant.”

Not exactly what you would expect from someone who over the next four years might become the most recognizable student on campus because of his skill on the basketball court. But even though he might be the next big thing, he’s still just a regular guy.

“[I’m] just a guy you can always come up to, always friendly, always smiling,” Brackins said.

How did someone with so much potential from Palmdale, Calif., end up in Ames? With offers from Washington, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Pittsburgh and others, the 6-foot-10-inch power forward could have gone to a much more prestigious basketball school.

It started in high school when Cyclones’ assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger developed a close relationship with Brackins. As time went on and the college decision got closer, coach Greg McDermott and Brackins developed a good relationship too, and that was what it took to get Brackins to Ames.

“I grew a really good relationship with McDermott, and I felt that if I am comfortable with a coach, I can play here,” Brackins said.

While he was ranked differently in every publication – 18th overall in the nation by, 48th overall by, 17th best power forward by – everyone who sees him play seems to agree on one thing – he’s good, and he is going to help the Cyclones.

For right now, that help will come in the form of rebounding. Too many times last year forwards Rahshon Clark and Wesley Johnson were counted on for rebounds, but the addition of Brackins should result in a lot more boards coming from the front line.

“He has been our most consistent rebounder in practice, so that is why he is going to get an opportunity to start, at least in the exhibition games,” McDermott said.

Brackins can clean the glass, but as he becomes more comfortable with the college game, expect to see him put the ball in the hoop.

A self-proclaimed versatile player, Brackins likes to take what the defense gives him, capitalizing on the mismatches his size and athleticism creates.

“I like to put it on the floor, I like to post up, I like to shoot the three,” Brackins said. “[I do] a little bit of everything.”

Anybody who plays for McDermott needs to play defense, and while he hasn’t mastered the art yet, Brackins has bought into the system and is working hard to improve.

That willingness to work has his coach enthusiastic about the kind of player the star recruit can become.

“I am really excited about his potential on the defensive end of the floor,” McDermott said. “He doesn’t understand how good he can be there yet, but he has a chance to be a very good defensive player.”

His teammates can’t help but see the potential too. Clark has been impressed not only with what Brackins has done on the court so far, but the work he put in the weight room over the summer, bulking up for the physical Big 12.

If Brackins continues the way he has started, Clark can see him going a long way with basketball.

“If he continues to buy into coach McDermott’s system and continues to play his hardest every day, the sky is the limit for him,” Clark said. “He could . after he is done with college basketball, he could play in the NBA one day.”

His coach doesn’t want to think about Brackins leaving when he hasn’t even played a regular season game in a Cyclones uniform yet, but McDermott realizes that someday the NBA could come calling. If and when that day comes, he’ll deal with it, but he won’t worry about it until then.

For now, McDermott is ready to see what Brackins can do for Iowa State. The freshman has the skills on the court – and the charisma off it – to make a name for himself and give Cyclone Nation high expectations. He’s not there yet, but someday he could be.

“I hope he can go down as one of the Cyclone greats,” McDermott said. “But obviously there is a long way to go before he gets to that point.

Cyclone fans, enjoy the ride.