The student-athletes of the NAIA are ultimately what make the NAIA. We have so many special student-athletes at this level, so I wanted to create a piece that would highlight those individuals. Brandon Durnell was one of the first players to follow the twitter account, so I thought he would be the perfect kid to do our first Player Spotlight. The NAIA prides itself on it’s Champions of Character slogan. After talking to Brandon, for the first time ever, I can tell you that he defines what a Champion of Character is supposed to be. Brandon was just a sophomore this past season at Spring Arbor, so he will also be apart of the merger next off-season, and I hope to keep a relationship with him and hopefully he is willing to help contribute to other pieces in the future. He’s a great kid, who picked up a new fan. I can’t wait to follow him for the next two seasons.
Brandon Durnell Spring Arbor University
Major: Communication Studies
2nd Team All-Crossroads League
NAIA DII All-Tournament Team
NAIA DII National Champion
Why did you choose Spring Arbor?
I chose Spring Arbor because of the unique culture there. On my visit, I felt the most wanted and that was important to me. The culture in this program is special and it has created a team that is the most mentally tough and most unselfish team I have ever seen. I am so glad I am a part of it. I also appreciated the opportunity to grow in my faith at this school. The coaches and players have created a brotherhood feel that makes it very special. I have been pushed on the court and off the court because of Spring Arbor University.
What’s your favorite moment as a Student-Athlete so far?
My favorite moment has to be winning the National Championship. It still feels surreal. I have worked so hard the last few summers and it was so cool to see it pay off. I didn’t take basketball seriously until the summer after my sophomore year in High School, so I had a lot of catching up to do so I could compete at a high level. I’ve had incredible coaches, teammates, mentors, friends, and family that have supported me and held me accountable along the way. It was cool to make them proud. It was also very special to experience the success with that specific group because we grinded all year! I will never forget the many special moments that happened during that Championship run!
What would you tell a kid who may be on the fence about signing to this level?
It drives me crazy when I see kids passing up opportunities to play at this level. If there is a better opportunity, then obviously take it. However, I must say that this is an extremely high level of basketball with high level talent scattered throughout it. When it comes to NAIA, I believe that the Crossroads League is one of the best conferences in the nation. A lot of the coaches at this level are incredible people and they do things the right way. I have made so many connections and built relationships with people that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have never played at a D2 or D1 school, but I know that I have enjoyed every step along my journey playing at the NAIA level and I wouldn’t change anything I have done and I definitely don’t regret my decision.
What do you want to do after basketball?
I want to pour into the next generations of basketball in any way I can. I have been coaching in the AAU scene, TPE 2021 and PSE2022 AAU programs, with two of my biggest mentors. Chase Sanders, Indiana Thainon, and I have had a blast pouring into the next generations of hoopers and it would be cool to continue to work with them for many years to come. I also have gone back to Homestead and stayed a part of the high school program. Chris Johnson is one of the best coaches in high school basketball and to be able to go back and see how he continues to be successful has also sparked my interest in wanting to potentially coach one day. I have fell in love with coaching and mentoring and I hope to be able to do that for the rest of my life. Even when my playing days are over, I never want to get away from the sport. I don’t know what coaching opportunities will come my way, but I am excited to see what the future holds. Whether it is at the college level, high school level, or AAU level, I want to continue to impact others and help the next generations get to where they want to go.