EXETER, N.H. — Chris Braley took a deliberate route to his college choice, weighing the pros and cons of some 20 Division I scholarship offers that were available to him last summer.
That route, which included a heavy emphasis not only on his considerable basketball skills but also academic and cultural considerations, have led him to Stony Brook University on Long Island in New York.
“They’re No. 1 in [America East] right now and the basketball program there is really growing,” said Braley, the former first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection from Nokomis Regional High School in Newport now in his second year as an undergraduate at Phillips Exeter Academy.
“But they also have a lot of majors in the area I’m interested in, physical training and kinesiology. They have a research hospital on campus and they really integrate the students into that.”
Braley made his verbal commitment to attend Stony Brook this week from a final list of schools under consideration that included the University of Maine, Quinnipiac and Duquesne.
Stony Brook and America East rival Maine ultimately were the last two schools on Braley’s list.
“I had an excellent time during my visit to Maine, they did a great job of recruiting me,” said Braley. “But a big part of it was that I really wanted to keep growing out of my comfort zone, which I began doing when I made the decision to come to Phillips Exeter. Going to Stony Brook and being near New York City gives me the chance to do that.”
Phillips Exeter basketball coach Jay Tilton believes Braley made a well-considered decision.
“It was very difficult for him because he loves Maine and he has tremendous respect for coach [Ted] Woodward. That was the hardest part for him because he had two very good options,” said Tilton.
“In the end I think Chris did a really good job of finding the right fit for him. He was very thorough with the process and Stony Brook was very thorough with him, and I think he also wanted to gear himself toward a culture where he could continue to grow.”
Braley, a 6-foot-4-inch, 197-pound wing player, has started every game he’s played while helping Phillips Exeter to an overall 33-10 record during the last two seasons, including 18-1 overall, 11-0 in New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference Class A play so far this winter.
He was named first-team All-NEPSAC last year after leading the Big Red to the conference semifinals, and this year he leads his team in scoring and rebounding with averages of 18 points and 10 boards per game while also serving as a co-captain.
“And he typically defends the most physical kid on the floor, so the demands are pretty high on him,” said Tilton.
Tilton sees Braley’s strength, versatility and work ethic creating opportunities for him at Stony Brook, which is 17-5 this winter including a league-best 8-1 record in America East play.
“Chris is very versatile, and he has developed a keen sense of how to play when the ball isn’t in his hands, especially on defense,” Tilton said.
The Seawolves are set to graduate four wing players after this season, creating the possibility of immediate playing time for Braley.
“Stony Brook has made tremendous upgrades in their athletic program in recent years, and coach [Steve] Pikiell is as good as they come,” said Tilton. “I think Chris’ style of play meshes well with what Stony Brook is trying to do, and I think they see him as an integral part of their future.”