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Brayden Santa Barbara is having a big senior year as the starting center for the Guilford boys’ basketball team this winter. (Photo courtesy of Brayden Santa Barbara )
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After spending three years with Guilford High School boys’ basketball team, Brayden Santa Barbara is getting his opportunity to start this winter. Brayden has taken that opportunity and shined on the court, helping the Indians play some great basketball in recent weeks to get within one win of a State Tournament berth.
Brayden is averaging 11.5 points per game for Guilford on the year. The senior is also the Indians’ leading rebounder to go with 25 blocks and 25 makes from 3-point range. After Guilford got out to a slow start to the season, Brayden and company have won six of their last eight games to improve to 7-7.
“I’ve always worked super hard. This has always been my dream,” says Brayden of earning a starting role. “I finally got the opportunity, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
Heading into his first year of high school, Brayden felt that he needed to make a decision between basketball and baseball. Brayden decided to focus on basketball and, from there, his love of the game grew.
Brayden’s basketball journey didn’t begin on the traditional court. He started off by spending hours working on his shot outside of the gym. Brayden calls his shot his “main weapon” and says the rest of his offensive game stems from that.
As he progressed through the basketball world, Brayden was introduced to New Haven native and former NBA player Tharon Mayes by his teammate Chris Cahill. Mayes is now head coach for the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven in the AAU circuit. Brayden and Mayes have been working together since Brayden was in 6th grade, and their bond helped Brayden get where he is today.
“He really instilled confidence in me and overall helped me with my game,” says Brayden of Mayes. “He was a major factor in turning me into who I am. He saw something in me that I didn’t see.”
In addition to securing a starting spot, Brayden also underwent a major positional switch as a senior. After spending most of his time at guard, the 6-foot-2 senior has been tasked with playing center for the Indians this season. While the move brought new challenges, Brayden feels that his effort and shot-making ability give him an edge over other centers.
“I’ve been working on my shot so long that it has created more opportunities for me. It’s always a mismatch when I go up against opposing centers,” Brayden says. “They’re not always expecting the biggest kid on the floor to be shooting a lot.”
Brayden’s shooting skills are proving a huge plus for the Indians. However, Head Coach Jeff DeMaio says that he will always remember an outstanding defensive play that Brayden made this season.
When Guilford faced Amity on Jan. 31, Brayden stood tall and took a charge from an opposing Spartan. The charge helped the Indians come away with a 69-59 victory and was exactly the type of play Coach DeMaio wants to see from his athletes. DeMaio has been impressed with Brayden’s progression on the court since his freshman year.
“We’ve been harping on him all year to become a better defender. When Brayden took that charge, I thought that was a real huge moment for us, and it eventually helped us win a really tough game,” DeMaio says. “The thing I’ll remember about Brayden is how far he has come. You look forward to a senior year, you hope it’s a big one, and I think he’s having a big season.”
Along with Mayes and DeMaio, Brayden has also received overwhelming support from his family during his basketball career. They’re always in the stands watching his games, and Brayden appreciates how his father used to drive him to various AAU tournaments throughout the Northeast. This family support has helped Brayden become a better player who is hitting his stride as his high school career comes to a close.
“My family has always been super supportive, even outside my immediate family. I’ve always got family friends,” says Brayden. “They always come to my games and support me. It’s important to see all of those people there, and seeing them want me to succeed has always affected me positively.”
Once he graduates from high school, Brayden is planning on going to college to pursue a degree in business. He’s hoping to continue his basketball career and has talked to assistant coaches at Bentley University about potentially walking on to their squad.
Brayden cherishes the good times that he’s had with his teammates at Guilford. As he enters the home stretch of his high school career, Brayden says he will always remember the “brotherly bonds” that he’s formed on the basketball court.
“I’m going to miss them. It’s upsetting to leave those kids I’ve been playing with forever,” says Brayden. “I’m never going to forget memories of the past, the ups and downs. It has all been a great experience.”
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