He started skating at 3 and playing hockey at 5.
And the sport that had him at “Hello” was snowboarding.
So how come basketball?
Why the big — emphasis on big — switch?
Easy. Ciaran Brayboy got on his tippy-toes one day and read the writing on the backboard.
Being 6-foot-9 doesn’t disqualify you from being a hockey player.
But it does make you unique.
Currently, Zdeno Chara, at 6-9, is the tallest player in the National Hockey League. And the 39-year-old Boston Bruins defenseman has been pretty good. He’s played in more than 1,300 NHL games.
At the same time, being 6-9 doesn’t necessarily translate into basketball stardom.
But it does crack the door open a smidgen.
Fifteen-year-olds who do their shopping at Big & Tall stores at the local mall have a built-in edge with college recruiters. Especially those with talent.
Ciaran Brayboy has become the latest center of attention.
You don’t need a brand-new Amazon Echo to get the lowdown on this highly regarded New Trier sophomore.
“He’s definitely on the radar screen now,” said Brayboy’s New Trier twin tower, 6-8 sophomore Spencer Boehm.
After completing a successful “Here, I am” summer with the Mac Irvin Fire, Brayboy has become one of the area’s most intriguing players this winter.
“There’s a lot of upside with him,” said NT head coach Scott Fricke. “He’s a high-ceiling kid. He’s got skills, and he’s totally dedicated.”
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
When he was younger — say before the eighth grade — you couldn’t find Brayboy anywhere near a basketball hoop.
Influenced by his mother and late grandfather, he was consumed with hockey — and snowboarding.
“I loved snowboarding,” said Brayboy. “But I got too tall. All of the good snowboarders are 5-8.”
Shootin’ hoops was the last thing on his mind.
“Never really liked basketball,” Brayboy said.
And the game didn’t exactly come naturally to him.
“I couldn’t even make a layup last year,” said Brayboy.
Boehm, who comes from a basketball family, has watched Brayboy’s game unfold. And he’s been impressed.
“To see how far he’s come is pretty crazy,” said Boehm.
Brayboy is averaging eight rebounds, six rebounds and two blocks per game for the 7-6 Trevians.
And, even though he’s receiving serious interest from a number of schools, including Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Holy Cross, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Richmond, Brayboy admits that he’s still trying to figure it all out.
“I feel like I’m behind in knowing the mental part of the game,” he said. “I’m still trying to break the game down. Still trying to put all of the mental pieces together. Still trying to understand the game better.”
Fricke is being patient with Brayboy’s maturation process. The young center has had his ups and downs and highs and lows this winter.
“It’s hard to learn to how to play basketball,” said Fricke. “But he’s fully committed to the game. He wants to be coached. He wants to get better.
“He’s one of those guys who stays after practice to work on his game,” the coach added.
All those days on the ice certainly didn’t hurt his game-day demeanor. Brayboy brings hockey toughness to the basketball court.
“Off the court, Ciaran is one of the nicest guys that you will ever meet,” said Boehm. “He’s different when he’s on the floor. He plays with a lot of determination. He doesn’t take anything from anybody.”
“He goes after it out there,” added Fricke. “He’s a tough kid.”
And he’s got the biceps to go with it.
“He’s a massive 6-foot-9,” said Boehm. “He’s built like a brick wall.”
His aggressiveness, at times, has worked against him. Brayboy broke his arm three times playing hockey. And he missed a big chunk of the basketball season last winter with a broken finger.
Overcoming injuries takes plenty of mental toughness. The same holds true for overcoming tough losses.
Brayboy was not the least bit happy with his team’s one-sided 54-37 loss to rival Evanston on Dec. 13. And he didn’t like losing to Whitney Young 70-43 in the quarterfinal round of the Proviso West Tournament on Dec. 28.
After games like that, Brayboy tends to tap into his Inner Charles Barkley of NBA fame.
“After a game like this one, I like to say what Charles Barkley used to say after a tough game: ‘What game?’” said Brayboy, 10 minutes after the Evanston contest. “You just have to move on and forget about it.”
Notable: New Trier wound up going 1-2 in the Proviso West Tournament after losing a 72-51 decision to Bogan on Dec. 29. Junior point guard Andrew Kirkpatrick turned in a terrific effort in the loss. He finished with a game-high 21 points. He made 3 of 6 from three-point territory and went 6-for-6 from the foul line. Junior Griffin Ryan had 13 points and five rebounds, while sophomore Spencer Boehm ended up with nine points and seven rebounds. … NT opened the tourney with a 50-40 victory over Downers Grove North on Dec. 27. The Trevians were paced by Aaron Peltz (15 points, 2 steals), Kirkpatrick (12 points), Ryan (10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals), Boehm (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) and Ciaran Brayboy (4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists). … In a quarterfinal game on Dec. 28, state-ranked Young topped NT 70-43. The Dolphins, who ended up beating Morgan Park in the title game, broke open a tight game — they led 40-33 with 3:24 left in the third quarter — by hitting their first eight shots in the fourth quarter. “I was happy with our effort,” said NT head coach Scott Fricke. “But we have to stay focused for four quarters.” NT’s stat leaders were Kirkpatrick (8 points, 2 assists, 2 steals), Boehm (7 points, 6 rebounds), Ryan (7 points, 2 assists), Brayboy (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Peltz (6 points on 2 threes).