Forget the 931 career points he has collected, his ability to distribute the ball as crisply as Leno delivers zingers, or the way he at times willed his team to its first playoff berth last season. What's most astounding about Hudson senior Jarrod Branco is what he hasn't done. Namely, transfer. And rest assured, Branco says, many opposing players — and their parents — have tried to persuade him to do just that.
"Oh yeah, I've heard that a lot, even after my freshman year," Branco said. "It's just basically, 'Why don't you come play with us? We've got a better program over here.' "
At a time when free agency has become engrained in the fabric of prep sports, Branco is a throwback: An elite-level athlete who remains at one program, even when it is struggling through a lean period.
And in recent years, fewer have been more malnourished than Hudson. In Branco's sophomore year, the Cobras were 6-19. The year before, when he was promoted from JV late in the season, they were 3-22.
Not until last season, when Branco led Hudson to a 14-14 record and that inaugural playoff berth, did the payoff for his resilience arrive.
This season, with Branco (21.4 points, 4.7 assists per game), center Stephen Brom (5.1 ppg, 5.2 rebounds pg) and a junior class that went 10-0 in middle school, Hudson could be even better. Additionally, Branco will get to play with younger brother Jamal, a Cobras freshman.
"When he was in (Hudson) middle school, people told his parents to send him to Ridgewood, and this was not Ridgewood people," Cobras coach Jason Vetter said.
"Once he got in here I think he saw what we do and he loved playing for us. We haven't lost a player since my first year. My first year we had a couple transfer out but we haven't had any since then. … We've kept our basketball players, and I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to build something."
Branco, who said the idea of transferring simply never crossed his mind, hasn't seen his collegiate exposure diminish as a result of staying put. A year-round player who competes with a Tampa-based AAU team, he has been contacted by Division II West Florida and St. Andrews Presbyterian in North Carolina, among others.
"They're family," Vetter said of the Branco clan. "They've got a lot of great values and loyalty's one of them."
Joey Knight can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3350.
|Top 5 perimeter players|
|Jarrod Branco, Sr., Hudson||He's 124 points shy of school's alltime scoring mark.|
|Alvin Satram, Sr., Ridgewood||Averaged 12.2 points, 4 assists, 3 steals as junior.|
|Kevin Burnell, Sr., Land O'Lakes||Averaged 14 points and five rebounds per game.|
|Dante Valentine, Sr., Springstead||Averaged 20 points and 5.3 steals per game.|
|Darryn Frazier, Sr., Central||Averaged 23.2 points for struggling Bears team.|
|Top 5 post players|
|Lukas Poderis, Sr., Ridgewood||East Tennessee State signee spent all summer in elite-level AAU competition.|
|Dominique Roberson, Sr., Springstead||Guard/forward averaged 7.7 rebounds per game.|
|Bryan Jones, Sr., Ridgewood||Breakout year projected for Rams' most underrated player.|
|Stephen Brom, Sr., Hudson||Solid defender and rebounder for the Cobras.|
|Tyler Guy, Jr., Zephyrhills||A sturdy, 6-foot-7 three-sport athlete.|
|New coaches Former coach in parentheses|
|Mark Latsko, Hernando (Chris Ridenour)||Went 38-27 in three seasons at Trenton.|
|Derek Heard, Pasco (Poncho Broner)||Coached two current University of Florida freshmen at previous stops.|
|Paul Schulman, Gulf (Steve Feldman)||Has worked extensively with Bucs boys and girls teams in past.|
|Top 5 teams|
|Ridgewood||Four of top six players return from 24-4 team that has unfinished business.|
|Springstead||The Eagles return two of top three scoring threats from last season.|
|Land O'Lakes||The Gators lost a few key elements but should be right there with the Rams.|
|Hudson||Coach Jason Vetter thinks his club can be better than last year's playoff team.|
|Zephyrhills||Bulldogs came on strong late last season and have the players to compete.|