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New Recruit - T.J. Bray.

Princeton's first publicly-revealed member of the 2010 recruiting class is 6'4", 185 lb combo guard T.J. Bray from Catholic Memorial School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Sports Network, Bray chose Princeton over offers from Brown, Bucknell, Dartmouth, Florida Gulf Coast, Hillsdale, Lehigh and North Dakota.

I had the chance to speak with Bray's AAU coach, Ritchie Davis of Wisconsin Playground Warriors and Bray's high school coach Dean Bellanti. Both shared their thoughts with me about the newest Tiger.

Exclusive quotes and links to articles and evaluations about Bray can be found after the jump.

Coach Davis, who is in his 14th year with his highly successful AAU team, described Bray as "a very, very willing listener - which in return makes him a very, very good learner." When asked to summarize TJ's overall game, Davis shared with me that "TJ is your classic combo guard. He shoots it pretty well. I think he's a very, very good passer, which is one of the nice things about having the ball in his hands often. He sees the floor really well, which is certainly one of the better attributes of his game. From talking to the staff at Princeton and listening to what it is that they're looking for I think they would also like him to be a little versatile and play both [point guard and shooting guard]."

"[TJ] is best described as a very good basketball player," said Bellanti, who is in his second season coaching the Catholic Memorial Crusaders. "Not only is he our point guard but he can also be a rebounder, post up and play on the wing. From the perimeter he a threat to score. He is a threat to score driving to the basket. He plays point if we need him to, certainly when we're being pressured full court but in other situations he's playing the wing."

"He's our leader, continued Bellanti. "We had a team camp about a month ago and I came away being very impressed with how well TJ got people in place on the floor and was really a leader for us that weekend. TJ did just a fantastic job of running the show."

Bray averaged 16.6 points per game as a junior, has a 3.9 grade point average and scored a 30 on the ACT. "TJ just turned 17," added Davis, "so he'll be 17 when he graduates [from high school], which I think is appealing to some people because he still has some room to grow here."

At Catholic Memorial, Bray plays in a system with a lot of motion on offense. "We give the kids an opportunity to read the defense and read the floor. We play with concepts where we have to read the defense," said Bellanti of his scheme, which primarily uses a man-to-man defense. "All players on our team are asked to get out and defend the basketball, but we try and teach them how to dictate defensively. We like to pressure on defense."

As a starter for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors, Bray helped lead his AAU team to the 2008 Mr. Basketball Invitational title in Nebraska, the Knox Vegas Heat Invitational championship in April and the Hoosier Shootout crown in Indianapolis in July, with members of the Princeton staff on-hand to watch the action. Bray is one of six seniors on his team who are graduating to the Division I level. "TJ can play with anybody," said Davis. "He's just a basketball player. He does what's right. He doesn't know how to play any differently."

When asked about reports on recruiting sites that Bray was a lefty, Davis disagreed. "He is left-handed, but in reality he's ambidextrous," Davis mentioned. "He does several things left-handed, several things right-handed - anywhere inside the lane and the paint area he'll shoot it right or left-handed. Whichever way is easiest to score."

Bellanti agreed with Davis' assessment of his "deceptively long" senior-to-be, saying "What's nice about TJ is that he'll go left when people are aware of his left hand and then go to the opposite hand. I'd say he is as comfortable going to his left as he is to his right. He is fairly comfortable shooting the ball from about ten feet in with either hand."

"He's a strong kid. TJ is able to take a hit and still be able to finish, which is kind of a new part to his game that we've really enjoyed watching this summer," Davis revealed. "The one thing that stood out to us in July, as TJ's game continues to evolve is that he's become a very good rebounder as a guard, but probably more importantly he rebounds out of his area really well, which is something I know that while talking to the staff at Princeton that they also noticed and certainly something they liked a lot."

Davis praised Bray's intelligence on and off the hardwood. "TJ is smarter, usually, than everybody else on the floor," Davis said. "For that reason he seems to understand where people are at, where they're supposed to be. He's very, very good at reading defenses. He'll be no different at Princeton. He'll do a very good job of learning what Coach Johnson is asking of him and of the team, and as a result TJ will put in enough time to where you'll see the same things on the floor [at Princeton]. I still maintain that his intelligence as a player is what stands out as his top attribute. TJ is a very, very bright kid."

Asked where Bray needed to improve as a senior at Catholic Memorial, Davis responded that "like with everybody else I think he needs to get better in all areas. He needs to probably get a little stronger before he gets on campus. TJ's ability to be able to guard quicker, athletic guards in the Ivy League is something that will literally determine how much time he gets as a freshman and how much he truly plays."

"While I know Coach Johnson has been great through the process and told us that they certainly intend and need for him to play right away, I think they would also be very excited to know that he's gotten a little quicker laterally and a little stronger to where he can defend some of the quicker perimeter players that you're going to see in the Ivy League so he can stay on the floor," continued Davis. "Offensively, he'll be fine."

"TJ is coming to Princeton because he truly believes that Princeton is the best place for him to be academically," Davis said. "The basketball is nothing more than an additional privilege he's going to get along the way."

"I think TJ does a great job of reading the situation on the floor and I think that is going to fit well into the Princeton system of offense. You think of Princeton basketball and you think of intelligence on the floor." Bellanti stated. "I think TJ does so many things positive that I think he's going to be able to contribute in ways right away for the basketball team. I think he provides so many different things on the floor that he's going to be a possible contributor.

A visit to Princeton last weekend helped Bray decide Princeton was the school for him. "TJ is very thorough. He put a lot of time into getting to know the coaching staffs at all the schools that have been involved with him," Davis asserted. "He's certainly done his time in terms of looking at all the things that any kid making such an important decision would - current roster, the need for a player like him and academics. He really, really liked a lot of things about Princeton, but once he got a chance to get on campus this past weekend and get face-to-face with some of the important people within the university, he called me from campus and just said 'I really like this place. I feel at home here. This is where I want to be.' He took a couple of days to sit on it and he still felt the same way and the rest, as they say, is history."

Bray called the Princeton coaching staff earlier this week to let them know he had made up his mind. He will join fellow Wisconsinite Jimmy Sherburne next season, two players who were once both members of the same AAU team who will suit up collegiately in orange and black.

Wisconsin Sports Network wrote that Bray "Plays with a high basketball I.Q. …Good length and size…Can play either guard spot and could develop into a lock-down defender…Currently ranked No. 15 among state prospects in the class of 2010 by"

Josh's Sports Journal called Bray a "college size guard that can knock down the three at will and get to the rim."

Bray was named to teams for "Best Teamwork," "Best Defender," "Best Decision Maker" and "Best Player In Game" at the Future Collegiate High Exposure Basketball League, where he was described as an "“Outstanding leader and just an excellent player!” (the author's exclamation mark, not mine).

He was also voted the 2008-09 Classic 8 Conference Player of the Year following a 16-7 campaign for the Crusaders and recognized as Honorable Mention All-State by the Associated Press and Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 2 Honorable Mention All-State following his junior year.

Bray made the local news in eighth grade when he hit the game-winning shot for Holy Apostles and was named Most Valuable Player of the Padre Serra tournament four months and one day after the death of his mother from a blood clot following a routine knee operation.

Stuart Schulman said,

August 13, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

Just enough of a facial resemblance to Bobby Scrabis that I had to do a double take.

If he plays like Scrabis too, this could be a fun four years!

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