A Major Miner Late bloomer Brandon Wolfram of UTEP is in the hunt for the scoring title

January 15, 2001

When legendary UTEP coach Don Haskins offered Amarillo (Texas)
High senior Brandon Wolfram a scholarship in November 1996,
Haskins had never even seen Wolfram play--in large part because
Wolfram had yet to appear in a varsity game. After playing on
the freshman team at Amarillo in 1993-94, he missed the next two
seasons because of surgery on both knees. Miners assistant
coaches G. Ray Johnson and Luster Goodwin spotted a healthy
Wolfram in an AAU game during the summer of '96 and urged
Haskins to grab the 6'9" forward during the early-signing
period, before the rest of the world discovered him. "You want
me to sign a kid with two bad knees who's never played a high
school game?" Haskins asked. "You guys better be right, or
they're going to run us out of town."

Four years later Wolfram has evolved into a major Miner and, with
a 24.4-point average, was tied for second in the nation in
scoring. "I wasn't really recruited by anyone and never thought
I'd play college ball," Wolfram says. "Then Coach Haskins called
and changed my life."

Haskins, who retired after the 1998-99 season, built his Hall of
Fame career by discovering overlooked gems like Nate (Tiny)
Archibald and Tim Hardaway. Wolfram is the latest in that line
and is almost too good to be true. He's a first-team Academic
All-America with a 3.89 GPA in business management, and before
this season he turned down Playboy's Anson Mount Scholar-Athlete
Award because the magazine offends his strict Baptist beliefs. He
doesn't curse, wear earrings or have tattoos and he got married,
to the former Lauren Reecer, in August. "Brandon has always been
into his books, and he doesn't go clubbing on the weekends," says
senior teammate Parker Vandivort. "When he told me in the spring
that he'd proposed to his girlfriend, I said, 'Aren't you already
married?'"

Wolfram's scoring average has risen during his UTEP career, from
6.8 to 12.9 to 20.7 last season, and he's ultraefficient on
offense. Though averaging only 32 minutes per game this season,
he's on pace to set school single-season records by shooting
60.4% from the floor and 85.3% from the free throw line. He's
also likely to break the school's career scoring record (1,706
points, held by Antoine Gillespie). "I've shocked myself with how
well I've done individually, but it really bugs me that we've
been mediocre as a team," says Wolfram of the Miners' record
(41-41 entering this season) during his time at UTEP. "I know how
empty it feels to be voted All-WAC when your team finishes
seventh in the league."

UTEP had a 12-1 record through Sunday, and Wolfram's objective is
to lead the Miners to their first NCAA tournament bid since 1992.
He brushes off all questions about playing in the NBA, although
his solid mid-range jumper, creativity in the post and ability to
run the floor have prompted league scouting director Marty Blake
to predict that Wolfram will be drafted.

"Brandon is so low-maintenance that at times I ask myself, Are we
underappreciating this kid?" says coach Jason Rabedeaux, who
succeeded Haskins. "We may talk about him more next year because
he's the kind of selfless player you don't fully cherish till
he's gone."

--T.C.

COLOR PHOTO: MATTHEW MAHON
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)