He’s still Looking for Game

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                </div>After leading ASU to three post-season appearances, Jason Braxton takes his game on the road. <br/><br/>With just 41/2 minutes left to play, Jason Braxton finished a drive to the basket that put ASU ahead of arch-rival Arizona, 61-60, in one of the last, and most important, games of a 4-year career as one of the most popular and recognizable players on the Sun Devil squad. <br/><!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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After leading ASU to three post-season appearances, Jason Braxton takes his game on the road.

With just 41/2 minutes left to play, Jason Braxton finished a drive to the basket that put ASU ahead of arch-rival Arizona, 61-60, in one of the last, and most important, games of a 4-year career as one of the most popular and recognizable players on the Sun Devil squad.

“It was somewhat surreal,” he recalls, thinking back to that game in early March. His basket gave the Devils their first lead since the first two minutes of the game and a renewed hope for a huge upset of heavily-favored Arizona.

“As a kid, I was always dreaming of that game, playing my final time against Arizona. You can’t ask for anything better.” Well, actually, as it turned out… it could have been better. With the game tied and just 20 seconds left in regulation, the Wildcats’ All-American Salim Stoudamire drained an 8-foot pullup jumper, and UofA squeezed out a 70-68 win. As irony would have it, the defender on Stoudamire was Jason Braxton.

Stoudamire had been held scoreless through the entire second half – until that moment in time that is still burned in Braxton’s memory, when the 6-1 guard drove into the paint, stopped suddenly, created a cushion between him and Braxton, and hung in the air long enough to get off the winning shot.

But Braxton has long since put that game behind him. His focus is on the future and he’s beginning his journey to the next level, using a stellar basketball career in high school and college as his launch pad.

“I’m fine with it,” he says, referring to that winning shot that seems so long ago now. “I gave it my best effort, and that’s all I could expect. I just smiled at the time and said (to myself) that wasn’t the way is was supposed to work out.”

Now the man who started 102 games at the point for the Sun Devils (third in school history behind only Eddie House and Ron Riley) is taking that attitude on life and working through the first steps toward what he hopes will be a lengthy career in professional basketball.

During his four years in Tempe, beginning in the 2001/2002 school year, Braxton became, as much as anyone, the face of ASU basketball, even though teammate Ike Diogu reaped the largesse of media attention during the last couple of years.

With Braxton running the offense, ASU made three post-season appearances. He led the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio in his senior year and finished his career with 384 assists, sixth on the school career chart, and 106 steals, fifth in ASU history.

At 6’2″, Braxton is small by NBA standards, but that hasn’t kept him from chasing his dream of a pro career. He spent a week after graduation playing in a professional tournament in Las Vegas, hoping to catch the eye of a scout for one of the European pro teams. He got offers from teams in Japan, Switzerland, and Mexico.

He passed on those offers, holding out hope that we would get an offer from Spain or Italy, where he preferred to play. The gamble didn’t pay off, and he wound up without any offers.

But in October he signed with the Los Angeles Aftershock of the American Basketball Association (ABA).* He sees the ABA experience as a first step toward an opportunity for a contract overseas, or eventually the NBA.

“They (Aftershock) have great coaches and great players,” he points out. “I’ll be going against them (players) every day in practice and I can’t help but get better.

I knew right out of college that I wasn’t ready for the NBA,” he Now the man who started 102 games at the point for the Sun Devils (third in school history behind only Eddie House and Ron Riley) is taking that attitude on life and working through the first steps toward what he hopes will be a lengthy career in professional basketball.

During his four years in Tempe, beginning in the 2001/2002 school year, Braxton became, as much as anyone, the face of ASU basketball, even though teammate Ike Diogu reaped the largesse of media attention during the last couple of years.

With Braxton running the offense, ASU made three post-season appearances. He led the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio in his senior year and finished his career with 384 assists, sixth on the school career chart, and 106 steals, fifth in ASU history.

At 6’2″, Braxton is small by NBA standards, but that hasn’t kept him from chasing his dream of a pro career. He spent a week after graduation playing in a professional tournament in Las Vegas, hoping to catch the eye of a scout for one of the European pro teams. He got offers from teams in Japan, Switzerland, and Mexico. He passed on those offers, holding out hope that we would get an offer from Spain or Italy, where he preferred to play. The gamble didn’t pay off, and he wound up without any offers.

But in October he signed with the Los Angeles Aftershock of the American Basketball Association (ABA).* He sees the ABA experience as a first step toward an opportunity for a contract overseas, or eventually the NBA.

“They (Aftershock) have great coaches and great players,” he points out. “I’ll be going against them (players) every day in practice and I can’t help but get better.

I knew right out of college that I wasn’t ready for the NBA,” he admits. “I also had an opportunity to work out on several occasions with the Phoenix Suns and that showed me where I had to be to be able to play at that level. Based on that, I feel good about what I was able to do and now I know I still have a shot (at the NBA).”

But Braxton points out that it wasn’t until fairly recently that he realized he was putting too much faith in the physical part of his game, and not enough on the mental aspect. “Hard work and skill, of course, are important,” he explains, “but confidence is the key. In high school, I wasn’t afraid to play against anybody; I even played against some pro players. My advice is to look at it as a challenge, and you’ll do all right.”

Braxton averaged 20 points, six rebounds, and 9.5 assists in his senior year at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, Calif. He was ranked by HoopScoop as the 47th-best player in the nation, the Sporting News had ranked him as No. 16 on its point guard prospect list, and ESPN.com put him at No. 41 nationally.

He knew his way around the floor.

“But I know now that taking 500 or 1,000 shots a day doesn’t, by itself, make you the player you want to be,” he says. “It’s the mental aspect; you need to build confidence in yourself.

“I knew that guys I was playing with weren’t putting in any more time on their game than I was – they just felt more confident that they could score. That was the difference.” Determination and focus has also played an important role in Braxton’s success in life: “When I graduated from college, a lot of people congratulated me,” he recalls. “But I didn’t look at it as a great accomplishment because I knew I was going to graduate.

“But athletics were very important to me. They made it much easier to afford college, and get into a school I liked. It also gave me great resources during college, such as the tutors the school provides to help athletes with their studies.” Looking back to his high school years, Braxton thinks about what kind of advice he would give to those coming behind him:

“The book work, the practice, the mental aspect… they’re all important. But my advice would be to just continue enjoy playing basketball, even into college. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to play college ball. “Basketball is supposed to be fun – no matter what level it’s at. Don’t lose sight of that!”

The ABA gained a lot of publicity when it operated from 1967 to 1976. It was the “outlaw” league with the red-and-white ball that first introduced the 3-point shot. Its stars included famous names like Julius Erving, Connie Hawkins, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Moses Malone, Dan Issel, and others. In 1976, four ABA teams (New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs) were folded into the NBA, and the league went away – until 2000 when the league revived, and this year has 48 teams all across the country. The league’s objective is to provide affordable tickets to a fast-paced game of professional basketball, and package it as family entertainment.