AJ Bramah speaks out on his time at Robert Morris

AJ+Bramah+spoke+about+his+time+at+RMU+this+week+with+CSN.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

AJ Bramah spoke about his time at RMU this week with CSN. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold and Ethan Morrison

“I feel like it was best that I just went my separate way.”

After over a year and a half as a member of the Robert Morris men’s basketball team, AJ Bramah entered the transfer portal Friday afternoon only hours before the team was set to host Oakland at the UPMC Events Center.

The Horizon League-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer at the time of his departure, Bramah was a force to be reckoned with down low and around the elbows for the Colonials.

However, over the past couple of weeks with the team struggling, including an eight-game losing streak, Bramah began to feel frustration with the position his team was in and discussed how difficult it was to battle through in his first on-camera interview since announcing his decision to transfer.

“It’s frustrating,” Bramah said. “Putting up those types of numbers and playing hard… It’s not like my teammates weren’t playing hard.”

Bramah missed the Wright State series in Dayton on January 29-30 due to being paused from team activities, a team’s spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He alluded to personal reasons as to why he did not travel with the team.

“I feel like it was just best not just for myself but for the team, and the program if I removed myself [from that trip],” Bramah said. “It wasn’t just for me, it was for the program.”

Bramah did not specify as to if there was an external circumstance that caused him to enter his name into the transfer portal but spoke about how frustrating losing eight games in a row became as the season continued to play out.

“It’s been a frustrating year, a lot played into it, and I feel like it was just time to go my separate way,” Bramah said. “I appreciate everything that Coach Toole did for me. He’s a wonderful person. The whole coaching staff, my teammates, great people, you guys, people in the café, everyone is just wonderful here. I appreciate my experience here.”

The senior forward averaged 21.0 points and 10.3 rebounds-per-game before departing the program, posting six double-doubles to lead the team in both categories.

Bramah finds himself with a laundry list of teams champing at the bit for him to enter their program. The list of interested schools includes Seton Hall, Connecticut, Tennessee, Nevada, TCU, Arizona, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure, Arkansas, and San Diego State.

With one year of eligibility remaining in part to the NCAA granting student-athletes an additional blanket waiver at their disposal, Bramah feels fortunate for an additional opportunity to take a step up and improve his game.

“I can call myself lucky,” Bramah said. “I’m blessed to have another chance to get to the [NCAA] tournament, that’s really what I want to do is get to the tournament and make a run. It’s a blessing to have another year.”

Bramah said that there is a little bit of everything going through his mind as he narrows down his list of potential schools.

“This is my third time going through the process, I kind of have a little bit more experience so, in a way, I know what I’m looking for,” Bramah said. “As for the school, the location doesn’t really matter whether it’s on the East Coast or West Coast. The coaching staff is [an important part], just being able to trust them and how the team plays, I’ve got to know that stuff and go somewhere where we’re going to be able to compete for a championship. Getting to the tournament is something every college basketball player wants to do.”

Bramah hopes that wherever he decides to attend, the program helps to mold his game for a shot at an NBA career.

“I have to really take my time on this one,” Bramah said. “Hopefully I have a decision by my birthday in May [11], it could be earlier so there’s really not a timetable.”

The road to a successful basketball career began at a young age for Bramah in San Leandro, California, first picking up a soccer ball and learning about the game from his father.

“I grew up playing soccer because my dad when he was young always played soccer,” Bramah said. “I started to get tall around like the seventh grade. I grew from 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-10 so I just started playing [basketball] on the playgrounds.”

He credits his parents for their constant support and belief in him as the true role models of his life.

“My parents did a great job raising me and they made me into the man that I am today so I thank them for that.”

Bramah did not realize his basketball potential until the second season of his San Leandro High School career when things started to take off.

“I decided to take it serious when I was a sophomore in high school,” Bramah said. “My junior year I ended up winning the MVP of the conference and first team, so I started gaining confidence and was like ‘you know what, I’m going to do something special with this,’ so I kept it going.”

He did not realistically consider playing collegiately until the winding days of his high school career, carving a path to a future destination.

“It was like my senior year. In my junior year, I still didn’t think I was that good.” Bramah said. “But my senior year I stepped it up big time. I ended up going to junior college because I still needed a lot of improvement so I went to Sheridan out in Wyoming.”

Sheridan College was not the only junior college to contact Bramah, but he decided on the Generals due to their coaching staff.

“The coaches were [the main reason],” Bramah said. “I had a great relationship with Coach Matt Hammer. The assistant coach at the time Tom Parks, me and him grew a great bond and I felt comfortable there. It’s a beautiful school with beautiful people out there so it was a good decision.”

Bramah continued the success around the basket that he put on display at San Leandro as a dunk master at Sheridan.

“I mostly worked on dunking over there,” Bramah said. “I just wanted to dunk over there… I didn’t really care about the jump shot. I just wanted to get dunks and just catch lobs. My time there was amazing, I met a lot of great people. We were able to make the national rankings my first year. In my second year, we were ranked fifth in the nation so it was fun and was a great team.”

One of Bramah’s most loyal supporters from Sheridan, Ms. Martha Davey, has continued her loyalty to former Generals on Twitter including Bramah.

“She’s always been there since day one with support and always showing love,” Bramah said. “It’s beautiful to see her still supporting [former Generals], not just me but Adham Eleeda at Northern Kentucky, Sean Sutherlin at New Hampshire. She’s just supporting and I truly appreciate that.”

In search of a new school after two seasons at Sheridan, Bramah found similarities at Robert Morris that drove his decision to come to Moon Township and join the Colonials.

“I felt that I had a great bond with the coaches, they kept it real with me, and also, coming out of junior college, I only had two years to play so I had to pick a school where we had a chance to win a conference championship but also a place where I would get some playing time… with only two years to play, you have to make the right decision,’ Bramah said. “I felt like this was a good opportunity for me and last year we ended up winning the championship so I feel like it was a good decision.”

Bramah knew coming into his first season with RMU that he would have to battle against more experienced players in the program to earn playing time.

“In the summer, I felt like coming in as a junior college player and you have Charles Bain [already establishing himself]… coming in and competing against Charles and Yannis [Mendy] every day I knew I had to compete at a high level,” Bramah said. “It was very competitive and fun. I didn’t really care too much about playing and stuff like that, I just wanted to win. I’m big on winning.”

Bramah, nicknamed “the Bramah Bull” in high school and later again by head coach Andy Toole, addressed the two biggest games to date in the UPMC Events Center’s young basketball life as the Pitt Panthers came to town on November 12 as well as the NEC Championship game on March 10 against St. Francis.

“The environment was crazy, the support was crazy, but playing against Pitt… that’s a good team and a good school. It was high-level basketball and it was a great experience.”

“The night before the [NEC Championship game] I couldn’t sleep, we were so ready, and it’s crazy because that day before the game you could just feel it in the locker room, everybody was ready to just win,” Bramah said. “Losing was not on our mind, we knew we were going to win that game because we prepared for it and also because we were unselfish, no one cared about scoring, it was about making the right basketball play. Playing in the NEC championship, that’s something that I will never forget, it was a great memory going to war with my brothers. I was very confident going into that game and it worked out just fine.”

Only a few days after defeating St. Francis 77-67, the world forever changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shutting down the country, and the 2020 March Madness Tournament.

“It was unfortunate, it’s hard to get to the tournament, it’s hard to get to March Madness,” Bramah said. “It hurt but at the same time we had no control over it so we just had to move on.”

The pandemic continued to affect the team once practices and workouts began once again in the fall of 2020, thus irritating Bramah and his teammates.

“It was so frustrating because we would work so hard for two weeks and try to prepare for the game and then COVID hit and now we’re out for ten days,” Bramah said. “Then we had to come back and get back in shape, then we were on pause again. It was frustrating, but it wasn’t just us going through it.”

One of the major stipulations to returning to action in a COVID-induced atmosphere is the loss of spectators at many sporting events, including all Horizon League contests. For Bramah, however, he did not notice much of a difference, partly due to an increased noise level coming from the sidelines.

“[Playing without fans] felt the same,” Bramah said. “Every time I step foot on the court, I’m very competitive, I just want to dominate everything. When I hear the bench I feel like there are fans out there. When I’m yelling I feel like there are people looking and cheering. It felt the same, I didn’t feel any let-off.”

Bramah said that Toole helped him to develop his game further this season as he transitioned into a leadership role and displayed a drastically improved jump-shot.

“I try to play winning basketball… whatever it takes to win, whether it’s rebounding, trying to play defense, or block shots, it’s not just about scoring but whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to try to step up and make it happen,” Bramah said. “I always try to add to my game. Driving left to the basket or right, the scouting report is going to be easy to stop, but adding [the jump-shot element] was helpful.”

Bramah displayed consistent success despite contracting COVID-19 early in the season, hampering him at times from playing at a 100% level, but believes it will not affect him further down the road.

“After having COVID you don’t feel the same. Still, today, even when I run sometimes, I don’t feel the same. It’s frustrating because you know that had an impact [on my play],” Bramah said. “I talked to the doctor because there was one game when I was in the game and felt like my chest was closing up, so I sat on the bench and after the game, I talked to the doctor and he said it’s something you just have to give time, there’s no real cure for it, it’s just going to get better on its own.”

Bramah acknowledges that he needs to improve his perimeter shooting to succeed in the future.

“I’m going to keep the dunking and attacking,” Bramah said. “I’m never going to stop rebounding, transition, and passing, but what I really have to step up with my game is my three-point shot. Next year I’m going to take more threes.”

No matter where he goes, Bramah will continue his hard work in hopes of contributing to another tournament and championship-caliber team.

The full interview with AJ can be found here.