published Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Point guard Alex Bran a highlight in UTC loss

UTC's Gee McGhee is helped off the ground by teammates Alex Bran, No. 14, and Drazen Zlovaric, No. 20, during a game against Eastern Kentucky at McKenzie Arena.
UTC's Gee McGhee is helped off the ground by teammates Alex Bran, No. 14, and Drazen Zlovaric, No. 20, during a game against Eastern Kentucky at McKenzie Arena.
Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    UTC freshman walk-on Alex Bran shoots a 3-pointer against Mercer in Sunday’s loss.
    Photo by Allison Love /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Mocs were down 16 points and on the verge of getting blown out at home by Mercer on Sunday.

Point guard Ronrico White missed a 3-pointer and followed with a foul on the other end.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman bypassed reserve point guard Farad Cobb -- who twisted his knee a bit in the first half -- for walk-on point guard Alex Bran.

Bran is a freshman who began the day with a total of five minutes in four games, which is pretty typical for the last man on any college basketball bench. But he prevented the blowout in an eventual 63-53 loss to the Bears.

Bran, a former Mr. Football candidate at St. George's outside Memphis, buried a 3-pointer. He made a steal and took it the length of the court, getting fouled on his layup. He hit two free throws -- one fewer than Cobb had all season -- and sank another 3 for eight points in a 10-0 run by the Mocs.

"I hit that [first] 3, and I was, 'All right, let's go,'" said Bran, who had the first points of his career. "Being a walk-on, you really have to prove to Coach what you have. I like being the underdog and proving it."

Former walk-ons under Shulman have played special roles in his eight-plus seasons, beginning with Zach Ferrell, who developed into a respectable reserve point guard on the 2009 Southern Conference championship team.

"Zach was taking the place of Casey [Long] when Casey wasn't getting it done, and Zach brought us back from like a 22-point deficit against Furman here," Shulman said of a game on Jan. 29, 2007. "I named Zach the starter after that game. But I forgot we played Georgia Southern next, and they were going to pressure like crazy."

Some Mocs walk-ons, including current players Dontay Hampton and Sam Watson, earned scholarships. Hampton is out recovering from a torn ACL, and Watson has played in every game and averaged 12.4 minutes per appearance.

"Most people don't know that you have to get your own books and you don't have the same meal plan as everybody else," Hampton said. "Most students don't know the difference between walk-on or not. You're just a normal player."

Shulman said Hall of Fame coach Bobby Cremins, who last coached at the College of Charleston, had walk-ons who were sons of boosters and his friends because he's going to play six or seven players.

"Everybody has a different perception of walk-ons," Shulman said. "I want them to be able to play.

"Alex can play."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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