Oshae Brissett reluctantly left home to have a shot at making it big

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ The more his parents pushed, the harder Oshae Brissett dug in against them. He didn’t want to leave home to play basketball at a boarding school. It was summer 2013, just before he entered high school, and Brissett wanted to stay in Mississauga, Ontario. He told his parents he wanted to wait a year.“I was scared,” he said recently. “I didn’t want to go at all.”Brissett’s mother, McKeitha McFarlane, and father, Bernard Brissett, had separated close to the time Brissett was born, but they united on this front: Their son had to go. They soothed his fears while building their case. That the United States had better competition. That it would give him a better chance at getting noticed by colleges. That his brother, Dejon Brissett, had gone to a boarding school in the Chicago suburbs that eventually earned him a football scholarship to Richmond.Going away eventually earned Brissett a spot with Syracuse, where he arrived this fall as its top prospect in the 2017 class. Tony McIntyre, Brissett’s former coach and the father of former Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, said Brissett was a combination of Jerami Grant’s athleticism and CJ Fair’s length. Yet recruiting rankings weren’t as bullish and reflected his parents’ worries. Though Brissett was Canada’s top prospect, 247Sports.com’s composite rankings still pegged him the 136th-best player in the class. It was this underlying knowledge — that not leaving Canada meant not giving himself his best shot for the future — that ultimately led Brissett to conclude his parents had a point.“Sending him away was the best decision that I’ve ever made,” McFarlane said. “It wasn’t hard for me, because I sent away Dejon and he succeeded. (Dejon) was ready. … It was harder for Oshae because we were very, very close.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAndy Mendes | Digital Design EditorAt first, the family tried to compromise and send him to the local basketball powerhouse, the Athlete Institute. But, McFarlane said, it rejected Brissett because he was “too skinny.” Days later, a national basketball juggernaut, Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada, called on the recommendation of another coach Brissett knew. So, unwilling yet understanding, he left.“I only saw my parents like three times per year, then for a couple days,” Brissett said. “It’s a lot on my shoulders when I was young and going away. But people don’t know that because they’re from America and usually their parents can drive to where they are. … That’s something people don’t understand about me coming from Canada and what I needed to sacrifice leaving home.”At Findlay, there were two big changes. One, Brissett was a sophomore, not a freshman like he was at home, because of educational-system differences between Canada and the U.S. The second was the realization that his teammates operated on a different level than anyone he’d ever played with.That year’s team featured about a half-dozen future NBA players, including Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. and Milwaukee Bucks’ Rashad Vaughn. But when Brissett made it onto the floor, McFarlane said, her son hesitated and, once, a teammate smacked him on the back of the head to say, “Shoot the ball!” because the forward had been trigger-shy with his jump shot.Then, as he slowly built up confidence in his role, Brissett went up for a layup in warmups for his 11th game of the season and landed awkwardly. He broke his right knee and missed the rest of the season.Suddenly, the enormity of his decision hit the then-15-year-old. His injury prevented him from traveling with the team to away tournaments, so he ended up going to the movies and PF Chang’s, one of his favorite restaurants, with Rodney Haddix, a then-first-year assistant coach. They were both new to Henderson and they bonded that way.Haddix taught his players how to patch a hole in the wall after Brissett and a teammate created one roughhousing with each other. He gave Brissett driving lessons in his Toyota Camry. He listened when Brissett questioned his own skill, or if he’d recover, or why he came in the first place.One day that winter in Nevada, he wanted to ask his mother to come get him. He punched in his mother’s phone number several times but never actually called. Instead, he went to the gym.When he was about 10, Brissett quit sports altogether because, McFarlane said, “he wanted to be a regular kid.” He tried to learn the trombone but never really got the hang of it, McFarlane said. He went to Dejon’s basketball games and McFarlane noticed her younger son called out all the mistakes and seemed to predict the plays before they happened. About a year passed before Brissett felt tugged back onto the court himself.Years later at Findlay, Brissett adopted a similar approach from when he stopped playing sports, learning as he looked on from the sideline. The next season, fully healthy and more confident, he stepped into a larger role for the Pilots. He chipped in 4.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, according to MaxPreps.com, on a team that finished 29-3 and lost in the national championship. He nearly doubled those totals the next year, Haddix said. After graduating from Findlay in 2016, Brissett could have gone straight to college — he had offers from Oregon and Texas Tech — but he opted to wait.Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorHe enrolled at the Athlete Institute under McIntyre, the school about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from home that had once rejected him. He was then ranked as Canada’s top prospect. Though recruiting systems called him a postgrad, it was Brissett’s fourth year of high school. The once-skinny forward had added a little bulk and a little range in a big way.McIntyre began waking him up at about 5:30 a.m. to go to the gym and work on skills with a small group of teammates that included now-Syracuse teammate Howard Washington. Brissett went to the gym two to three times per day. The team raced out to a 7-0 record and Brissett was one of the team’s leaders.Yet something still felt off to Brissett. His opponents had heard about the kid who moved to the desert to play but they had never played against him. By returning home, Brissett had lost a level of familiarity. It was “weird,” he said; things were different. Here, in Oshae Brissett’s own city, no one knew how he played. So, he did the only thing he knew to do.“It was good to show them that I could actually play ball,” he said. “I showed them all the stuff they heard was true.” Comments Published on November 9, 2017 at 1:23 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TRlast_img

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