Recruiting for the 2022 hoops class is starting to pick up steam, and the recruitment for Atherton (Calif.) Sacred Heart Prep point guard Aidan Braccia is about to take off.
The Northern California standout currently holds offers from UAB, Hawaii and American and has been in contact with several others and is expecting more offers down the road.
“Interest wise, I’ve heard from Notre Dame of course, I’ve been in close contact with Stanford, a couple Ivy League schools in Harvard and Yale mostly, along with Princeton and Columbia,” said Braccia. I’ve also had talks with UCSD, Rice, UC-Davis, Bucknell and Santa Clara. Other schools have reached out, but these are the main ones.”
With a lot of high academic programs in the mix, it is clear that Braccia is not only a talented basketball player, but also a great student. When it comes time to choose a college, academics will play a huge part in that decision.
“There is the one side of it where I want to go to a program that is competitive, a winner, plays in a great conference and loves the game,” Braccia explained. “But then there is the flip side where I want to go to a great university and have a great experience and academic life.”
“So if the ball stops bouncing after college or after I have a chance to play professionally, whether that be in America or Europe, I have the ability to go get a job in the real world with a degree from a great university that has a great alumni system to help me after college,” Braccia continued. “Academics will play a huge role for me.”
While Braccia has yet to receive the coveted Notre Dame offer, he is very familiar with the program and has actually been up to campus and been around Mike Brey’s program for awhile.
“I’ve actually been going out to South Bend for one football game a year since I was in sixth grade,” Braccia mentioned. “We have a close family friend that went to school there, and he always invites us out. I’ve been to campus four or five times, and I’ve seen the basketball facilities a couple times as well. It is just a great place to be. I am really excited to keep building that relationship with Coach Brey and the rest of his coaching staff.”
Speaking of Brey and Braccia's growing relationship, they had a great phone conversation early on Monday morning - the first day teams could reach out to 2022 athletes. Braccia was one of the first athletes Brey personally reached out to.
“We just kept it simple and brief,” said Braccia. “We talked about life right now during Covid-19, and he talked about what he will be doing with the players over the next couple of months. We also talked about how my game will fit into his system. We are going to keep building that relationship over the coming months and years to see where it all goes. Both sides are very, very excited to see where we go from here.”
After speaking with Brey, Braccia feels really comfortable with how his game can translate to Notre Dame’s offense. One thing he really likes about Brey is the freedom he gives his players, and the point guard specifically on the offensive end.
“I think some of my biggest strengths come with the IQ I have as a point guard,” said the rising junior. “I think I have a really good feel for the game and I am really good with situational awareness when I am on the court … whether it be during a play, trying to break a press or whatever the situation.
“I’ve worked really hard on knowing what I have to do and where I have to be in certain situations whether that be offensively or defensively. Then I also look at myself as a very good shooter,” continued Braccia. “I’ve worked night and day for hours on both my pull up jumper and my three-point shot, and I take a lot of pride in both of those. I kind of base most of my game in being able to use both of those, whether that be off screens or handoffs or anything.”
“I have my strengths ball handling, but I can always be better with that. There are always little things I can work on. Quick twitch dribbles, and stuff like that. But I do take pride in my ability to ball handle and take contact from defenders and keep going. Another strength of mine is my passing. I see the court really well, whether it be the half court or full court. I’m always looking for guys cutting and rising. Those are really the key things I take pride in. My shot, my juke, situational awareness, just being a solid defender and being strong with the guy in front of me both on and off the ball. I have good anticipation on the defensive side.”
Another aspect of Braccia’s game that should translate to the college level well is his leadership ability on and off the court. While just a sophomore this past season, he took on a major leadership role for his high school team.
“I also like to look at myself as a leader. I am going into my junior year, and at my high school predominantly the seniors take the leadership roles and captain roles, but I kinda went into this year wanting to be a leader for the team and wanting to take control of the team, and I kinda did in a way,” Braccia stated. “So I have a lot of pride in being able to control guys and tell guys when they are doing something wrong and need to fix it. Same with myself, taking self-accountability and telling myself when something isn’t the right thing to do. I would like to say I am a good leader.”
While the coaching staff didn’t specifically bring up Matt Farrell as a comparison for Braccia, the similarities are certainly evident. The 6-1, 160 pound guard isn’t easy to push around even though he might not have the physical stature of other players.
“I like to pride myself on being able to have that core balance and body balance to where it might not look like I am that strong, but if you try to bump me I'm not gonna lose my path,” Braccia said. “Farrell was the same way, and he was really fast as well and I play fast too. The coaches haven’t really directly compared me to him, but the one comparison Coach Brey has made is that he just loves gritty, tough guards and that is what I like to look at myself as, and then smart guards as well. Farrell is an easy example of that in recent years.”
While Braccia is from California and will certainly have many opportunities to play close to home, he doesn’t see that as a major factor in his decision making process and can see himself suiting up for the Irish.
“I think for myself, I was born and raised and California and my parents are from California, but with a school like Notre Dame, there is no doubt that I would consider going there,” Braccia explained. “You know, people always say California kids don’t like winter, but I don’t really mind it and I would be excited to have that opportunity if I could. There are a lot of great universities in California, but I wouldn’t mind making the trip over to South Bend.”
With the off-season coming sooner than expected and Covid-19 postponing camps and AAU basketball, Braccia has really just been spending this time working on his craft.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get into a gym up here, so I’ve been working on everything...shooting, dribbling,” he stated. “My main focus this offseason has been my situational game - coming off screens, coming down, seeing the court, seeing the corners, coming off of handoffs, moving and getting passes.”
Braccia enters his junior season already one of the best players in Northern California and the state in general. During his sophomore season he averaged 13.5 points, 5.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 five steals per game, while also leading his league in steals overall and leading his team to a 23-6 record.
His high total for points in a game was 31, so the talent is certainly there to become a high level player on both ends of the floor and really be a floor general at point guard.
While Notre Dame has yet to officially offer, it is clear that both parties have a ton of mutual interest, and with many ball-handlers either graduating before Braccia is a freshman or with only one year of eligibility remaining he is a name to monitor and someone that could potentially join the Irish in the Class of 2022. I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of adding two guards in that class.
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