Brandon Wise Beyond Her Years
By Kevin Danna
She may only be 22-years-old, but Arizona State senior forward Kimberly Brandon has the maturity of someone twice her age. She may lead her team in scoring as well as contribute as much on the glass as any of her teammates, but Brandon's stats don't even come into the conversation when describing her importance to the Sun Devils.
"It's the way Kimberly cares for her teammates and cares for our program that really makes her a unique and really, really awesome player," said Joseph Anders, interim head coach at Arizona State. "She's kind of got that motherly thing, that she cares so much for everybody and she just wants to see everybody do well."
It's a trait Brandon had to develop at a young age; her biological father passed away when she was a child. Before being adopted along with her younger sister Gennifer by their basketball coaches, Brandon had to take on adult responsibilities to assist her biological mother. So she would help cook and clean, make sure her younger siblings would get up in the morning and go to school, help them with their homework at night.
"I just stepped in a role and I just did it - whatever my mother needed, or whatever my brothers and sisters needed," Brandon said. "I'm just happy because it made me into the person I am today."
Her importance to her family was not lost on Gennifer, who now is in her redshirt sophomore season as a forward at Cal.
"[Kimberly] is amazing," Gennifer said. "She is just much, much more mature and has been for a while."
As adult-like as she was before college, Brandon matured even more on the basketball court once she arrived in Tempe. Averaging two points per game as a freshman, she has quintupled that average as a senior to become a double-digit scorer. Those results make it pretty obvious that her offensive game has taken a huge step forward over the course of her four years at Arizona State.
"She worked on her game in terms of just her ball skills," Anders said. "Kimberly, when she first got to us, was really kind of a defensive stopper and she has really worked hard at developing her offensive gifts and now she's playing with an incredible amount of confidence."
The hard work paid off into making her one of the conference's more versatile players. Brandon became all the more valuable to her team when Becca Tobin got injured in the before the start of the 2010-11 season (Tobin would go on to start and play in 30 games last year as a senior). With the Sun Devils short on healthy post players during the preseason, the 6-foot-2 Brandon made the move from the perimeter to the paint.
Now after more than a year of playing down low, Brandon considers it the spot she is most comfortable at on the floor.
"When I played on the perimeter, I really had to use my quickness and being smart, too, with guarding the guards," Brandon said. "I was kind of a little bit oversized over some of the guards. It's been pretty good [moving to the post]; I've been pretty successful my past two years."
Although she can score inside and rebound with the best of them, don't mistake her for being your typical bruiser.
"I just really try to use my speed and me being a pretty good outside shooter to my advantage," she said. "Because I'm not really a bang-up, power-post player. I'm a little bit more finesse and would rather take the jump shot."
With her collegiate career winding down, Brandon couldn't care less about having high individual scoring nights and collecting double-doubles. She has one thing on her mind: making sure her team's season doesn't stop in Los Angeles and is extended for one more NCAA Tournament run, something Brandon has had the experience of participating in twice already.
"We really want to play in the postseason," Brandon said. "We're just going to try to do our best and do whatever we can to hopefully be successful from here on out."
When the well does run dry on her Sun Devil days, she is looking forward to putting her soon-to-be-completed family and human development degree to use upon graduation. Although she is talented enough to play professionally overseas, Brandon said she is more likely to stay in Arizona and become a social worker, something she has a great desire to do.
A fitting profession for someone who is so mature and wise beyond her years.