Senior forward Neville Brathwaite was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, raised in the British Virgin Islands and certainly didn’t start young as a basketball player.
He moved to America around seven years ago and has been in Georgia for about five years.
Transitioning was somewhat of a struggle for Brathwaite as he worked to make friends at first and overcome the language barrier in his first couple years in the States.
Still, he said it wasn’t too bad overall.
“I actually liked it when I first came over,” Brathwaite said. “Everyone was just so involved, because of how different I was from everyone here.”
Brathwaite started playing basketball in seventh grade after his mother asked him to pick a sport and placed him on an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. He struggled at first and wanted to quit.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Brathwaite recollected. “I had never taken basketball seriously.”
Head coach Tyler Rowland helped him tremendously with the transition into basketball – and off the court as well – once Brathwaite got into high school.
“I look at coach as a father figure for me,” Brathwaite said. “He has inspired me and showed me things that I didn’t have others show me. He has just had a big impact on my life. Life lessons and skills.”
With Rowland's tutelage, Brathwaite grew and burgeoned into an impactful player. Still, even as a senior, Brathwaite has a focus on getting better both on and off the court.
Rowland’s favorite part of Brathwaite’s game is his ability to do the little things for the Wildcats – the things that don’t show up in the box score.
Brathwaite stands in a leadership role for the Wildcats as they aspire to become a much improved basketball team this season.
“I want to make guys focused and locked in,” Brathwaite said. “I want to make sure that they do what they have to do and coach them up. I hope they do the same thing for me. I understand that we all make mistakes. I just want to be the one to help people learn from their mistakes and better myself as well.”
Energy is the focal point of Brathwaite’s leadership style.
“I pump people up even when we’re down,” Brathwaite said. “I make sure that everybody stays focused, locked in and lively even when we’re doing well.”
That mentality directly translates to the court for Brathwaite. Previously, he said he has a history of getting frustrated in tough situations, and that hindered his ability to produce in games.
Now, his newfound composure allows him to maintain his own focus to lead the Bulldogs.
Basketball is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. So, once Brathwaite’s collectedness blossomed, the rest of his game on the court did as well.
For that reason, his offseason work has been bountiful with results. It started with his shooting from behind the arc – one of his main focuses heading into last summer.
“My shot has been okay, but the consistency hasn’t been there,” Brathwaite said. “So, I’ve been working on becoming more consistent. I still have work to do.”
“I probably won’t go crazy on the threes, but if I have an open shot, my hope is to make almost every single one,” he added.
With Apalachee being a smaller team than many of its region counterparts, Brathwaite understands his role in the offense needs to extend past the paint. So, he wants to become dominant inside and out.
His conditioning is another focus for him, as he wants to be able to run around with the guards while getting physical with the bigs.
“I definitely have to play bigger – not height-wise, [but effort-wise],” Brathwaite said. “I have to do better boxing out and just play harder than the bigs, because they’re going to see me as an undersized big.”
“They’ll think they can outwork me, but my mindset is to outwork them.”
According to Brathwaite, the next step for him comes with improvement with his ballhandling. Given that he will be on the perimeter just as much as he is in the interior, he knows he will have to hold his own and control the ball.
Entering his final season as a Wildcat, Brathwaite aspires to make the state playoffs by being competitive in Apalachee's new region. He also wants to obtain a stronger record than last year’s 9-17 finish.
After he graduates, he wants to continue in the welding industry and take classes full-time. He’s currently dual-enrolled as a welding student while he finishes his high school curriculum as well.