Last season, Franklin County High School senior Simon Brathwaite, newly transferred from a small coastal town on Long Island, New York, helped propel the Seahawks to district and regional titles, and a berth in the Class 1A Final Four.
Coach Nathan West was instrumental in getting him an offer to Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, a school where he had served four years as an assistant coach.
Beginning this past summer, the six-foot three-inch freshman has posted a respectable showing during the first half of the season for the varsity Tritons.
But for him it’s not enough.
"I would say it went well. I know I could do a lot better," he said, back home with his family in Eastpoint for a Christmas vacation that will end this Sunday.
"I could contribute a lot more than I’ve shown. I know I could impact the team in a positive way," Brathwaite said.
Beginning with his arrival on campus Aug. 17, he said he’s been working hard as one of coach Chad Helle’s recruits, one of only two from outside Iowa and other adjacent Midwestern states. The other, freshman Jeremiah Hurst, from Bessemer, Alabama, has been averaging about 10 points a game, and had a double-double earlier this month in a home win over Simpson JV.
Brathwaite is averaging about 4.4 points a game, and a little more than two rebounds a game, not quite up to the standards he’s sent for himself.
"I’m nowhere close to how good I can be," he said.
Two stats that stand out are his shooting percentage, about 73 percent from the field. He’s also bettered his shooting odds from the free throw line by a good 15 percentage points over the 55 percent he shot in his senior season. So far he’s downed 13 of 18 from the charity stripe, for about 72 percent.
Brathwaite has appeared in about half of the team’s 14 games so far, which have given the Tritons an overall 5-9 record, with only one conference game thus far.
"We’re basically a bunch of freshmen trying to mold, trying to build," he said. "We’ve lost some close games. I feel like we’re at a really good point. We’re starting to mesh with each other, trying to turn the corner."
Brathwaite appeared in some of the three October pre-season games, against Waldorf University, Grand View University and in the JUCO Jamboree, but the scores and stats for those games aren’t posted on the Triton website.
The season began in earnest at home Nov. 3 against Mount Mercy College JV, a 71-66 win in which Brathwaite did not appear.
He didn’t see action in the team’s 76-61 loss to Marshalltown two days later, in the 90-85 loss to Central Community College-Columbus on Nov. 8, nor the 99-98 overtime loss to Northeast Community College the following night.
Brathwaite did manage a steal, and committed a turnover, in a brief appearance Nov. 12 in the Triton’s 76-71 loss to Iowa Western Community College.
In the Nov. 15 78-62 loss to Morton College, Brathwaite came in about midway through the first half, and produced his first collegiate scoring. He downed the one field goal try he attempted, and nailed four of five free throws, while pulling down three defensive rebounds.
On Nov. 16, in a 119-42 blowout of County Upper Academy, Brathwaite, who wears #10, had his best game to date, hitting 7 of 10 from the field, and 3 of 5 from the free throw line, while missing his two tries from outside the three-point line. He had five assists and one steal.
He pulled down two offensive rebounds, and eight on the defensive end of the court, but committed four turnovers. "I’m going at too fast a speed and maybe trying to do too much sometimes," Brathwaite said.
The Tritons’ offense has Brathwaite as a shooting guard on the wing. "We spread out the floor, and start with a dribble drive offense, and kick it to the wing," he said. "It can be mistaken for a wave."
A week later, the Tritons lost a narrow 91-88 home game against Northeast Community College, a game in which Brathwaite was assigned to guard the team’s top shooter, sophomore Emmette Page.
The hot-shooting Page, who hit for a game-high 30 points, caused Brathwaite to commit three fouls on defense while blocking a shot at the rim. He connected on both his field goal tries, and on both his free throw opportunities, for six points on the night, plus three turnovers.
The following night, Brathwaite saw some court time in the Triton’s 87-70 loss at home to Central Community College – Columbus, grabbing two defensive rebounds and turning the ball over twice.
In an away game Nov. 26, the Tritons got back on the winning track with a 71-67 defeat of Marshalltown Community College.
In that game, Brathwaite hit one of two free throws, and snatched three defensive rebounds, while notching a steal and committing one turnover.
On Dec. 1, when the Tritons downed Simpson College JV 100-87, Brathwaite did not appear, and while he played briefly in the Dec. 4 83-80 loss to Iowa Lakes Community College he didn’t figure in the stats.
Brathwaite played nine minutes in the Triton’s 98-63 loss at Southeastern Community College on Dec. 7. He finished with five points, hitting 1 of 2 field goals, and 3 of 4 free throws. He committed two personal fouls.
He said he’s enjoying college. "I like it a lot, but it’s a big change," Brathwaite said. "I like a bunch of the people I’ve met."
Two of his roommates are from Iowa, and they’re having some good times, including three trips to Iowa State to watch football games. Incidentally, the 7-5 Cyclones face the 10-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this Saturday at noon in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando.
After years growing up in New York, Brathwaite is used to the sort of weather he’ll face next month in Iowa. "I’ve lived in the cold, but I’m not much of a ‘cold’ person," he said.
Majoring in occupational therapy, the 2019 Franklin County High School graduate said he plans to redouble his efforts in the classroom next semester, after making the adjustment to college work. "My grades have definitely room for improvement," he said. "I know can be better second semester."
And he’s set on making strides in the second half of the season as well on the court. "I plan to come to practice, work harder and do better, to prove it," Brathwaite said.