NAIA Player Spotlight: Brandon Cotton – University of Providence (MT)
When Steve Keller left Montana Western, after an NAIA DI Quarter Finals appearance, for the University of Providence (MT), who was coming off of an 11-18 season, you knew the four time Frontier Conference Coach of the Year was going to get the best talent he could for the program. His first JUCO transfer to sign at University of Providence, ended up being a good one!
University of Providence (MT)
Major: Business Administration
Honorable Mention All-American
2nd Team All-Conf – Frontier Conference
Finished 22nd in NAIA DI in 3pt% (44%)
Finished 22nd in NAIA DI in 3pt% (44%)
What was your journey like before signing at University of Providence (MT)?
Before coming to Providence I was raised in Tacoma, WA, where I graduated from Lincoln High School in 2016. I played for a local AAU team growing up called “Swish”. At a young age I was a gym rat, and would go to the local YMCA or go workout at the old Gray Middle School. I would drive any where to play in local men’s leagues or open gyms. I just love competing and getting better. I was not highly recruited coming out of high school, and had interest from NAIA’s, Jucos, and NCAA D2 programs. I decided to attend Lower Columbia College which is a JUCO in Longview, WA. I chose to play there because I felt I could grow as an individual and as a player. My freshman year I had the opportunity to be coached by Jim Roffler, who was very successful in his coaching career. We ended up going to the Final Four that season. I came off the bench to play point guard, which made me a better player. My Sophomore year, I ended up being named 1st Team All Conference, helping my team make it to the NWAC Tournament for the second year. I started to change my mindset at JUCO, and was in the gym every day working with our assistant coach. I appreciated the security and the athletic staff at Lower Columbia College, because they gave me access to the gym any time I wanted to get in.
Why did you choose to attend University of Providence?
I chose University of Providence (MT) for many reasons. Hearing what Steve Keller has done in his coaching career to that point was impressive, and I felt his style of coaching and style of play was the best fit for me. He also coached two players from my area in Tacoma, Brandon Brown, and Dom Robinson. They both had really successful careers with Coach Keller. Coach Keller is a coach who will push you to be great, and wants you to reach your full potential. I also really enjoy playing for assistant coach JC Isakson. On my visit to Great Falls, I felt really comfortable and welcomed. I knew that UP was a place where I could be away from all the distractions and focus on my skills on the court and in the classroom. University of Providence is a small campus, and full of student-athletes. I believed in this place, and and felt like we could make history at UP before my career was over.
The Frontier Conference is coming off of having two teams in the NAIA DI Final Four, what did you think about playing in the league?
The Frontier Conference has many good teams as you could see from this years National Tournament with Lewis-Clarke State and Carroll College making it to the quarterfinals. This league is different than others because we play each other three times in conference. It is a dog fight every game, and if you don’t bring it each and every night, you lose. There are talented players all over the conference. In this league it is all about who is mentally tough enough to make it through the grind, and who can make adjustments on the second and third times through conference play. There are a lot of long bus trips, and you have to be locked in and mentally ready when you get off the bus. There are several times where you play back to back nights, and taking care of your body is very important to have success.
What would be your advice to kids who are on the fence about playing at the NAIA level?
My advice to the kids who are on the fence about NAIA is that there are so many talented players and teams all over the country, so if you think you’re too good for this level then you are probably wrong. In my first year in the NAIA I saw a lot of players who could be playing at higher levels, but chose NAIA, and are having success. Don’t just blow off a school offering you a scholarship because you think it is a lower level. I didn’t think I would ever play NAIA basketball, but this is where God has placed me, and it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Playing NAIA has helped me showcase my talents, and I was blessed enough to receive Honorable Mention All American, and 2nd Team All-Frontier Conference. Those awards helped me to see how much my game has evolved throughout the years. I have been doubted my entire life, and people look past me because of the route I have chosen, from JUCO through NAIA. I averaged 17 points and 3.5 assists per game, and still know there is more I can improve on to be a better player my senior year. The NAIA, and University of Providence has allowed me to be that player.
What do you want to do in life after you graduate from University of Providence?
Hopefully I get the chance to play pro basketball, but whenever my playing career is over, I hope to open my own clothing business or something similar. I want to give back to the communities, and try to help the youth achieve their goals and aspirations. My own goals are to play professional basketball. No matter if it is overseas, the G-League, or the NBA, making a living off of what I love to do is a life long dream of mine, and I am excited to turn those dreams into a reality. I want to be an influence on the younger generation, and show the kids back home, that I am living proof that you can go pro from any level. I look up to Brandon Brown, who has now played overseas for over five years. I know that if I stay confident, work hard, and keep my faith, the same impact on others that he has had on me.