UMSL basketball senior Neil Branham

Guard Neil Branham of the University of Missouri–St. Louis men’s basketball team is one of four seniors on this year’s team, which is currently 14-5 overall. A four-year member of the program who exemplifies the student-athlete as a whole, Branham is a key defensive player with an ability to knock down a three-pointer.

Talk about your role on the team. What do you try to accomplish when you are on the floor?
My role on the team is to be a defensive stopper. When I’m on the court I usually guard the other team’s best player. My goal every game is to keep that player from scoring their average points per game and to be a leader on the defensive side of the floor.

How has the senior class taken on a leadership role with this team this season?
I think that the senior class has evolved very well into leaders for this team. Having been in the (Great Lakes Valley Conference) for a few years we know what to expect and what it takes to win in the conference. We make sure that we get after it every day in practice to help prepare our team for what it’s going to be like on a nightly basis.

What are your goals for the remainder of the season? Both personally and as a team?
UMSL hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since the late ’80s and that is the goal every year. I have played on some good teams that had a chance to go to the tournament but we have fallen short. This year we have a good enough team and the goal is to get to the tournament.

Why do you wear No. 5?
I wear No. 5 for the five people in my family: my mom, dad, brother and sister. We have all worn No. 5 at some point in our career, from my sister wearing it in softball, my brother wearing it in college basketball and me wearing it in high school football.

Would you rather make an NBA three-pointer or steal the ball and go the length of the court for the lay-in and why?
Probably the NBA three-pointer simply because it’s worth three points and a lay-in is just worth two.

You graduated in December with your undergraduate degree in finance and began work on your MBA this month. How do you balance being a student and an athlete?
I try to stay balanced by staying organized the best I can and just setting time aside to focus on school work and block out any other possible distractions. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re on the road traveling, but you have to realize the bigger picture in that you’re playing basketball to get your education paid for.

What are your goals after college?
First goal is to get a job because we all know how hard that is to do right now. My main goal is to get into property development and help smaller communities – like my hometown of Troy, Mo. – grow and become more attractive places for people to live.

The UMSL Experience

Mary Ann Mitchell

Mary Ann Mitchell