Mallory Brake is going to be a Bluejay after announcing her verbal commitment to play women's basketball at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., on April 22 over Twitter. Many players wait until the summer or into their senior year to announce their decision after the club basketball season is over, but Brake said she was at the point in her recruitment process where she was ready to make a decision.
"Regarding the timing, I really wasn't trying to wait for more offers this AAU season and I knew that it was the right choice for me," she said. "I actually thought they may be the school from the first visit there. It was a smaller school than I originally anticipated, but I really got excited about the Big East Conference, the team and coaches and most importantly the academic fit. I wanted to be done before this AAU season because a lot of coaches have watched our AAU team for several years. I didn't want to spend another summer visiting schools and feeling all the pressure of coaches' evaluations, etc."
Brake has played AAU basketball the past eight years and is playing again this summer. She spent the first four years with the Minnesota Stars and then switched to North Tartan, which is considered to be the best girls' basketball organization in Minnesota.
She said her recruitment started with schools around Minnesota like South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Then as her recruitment picked up, she began taking unofficial visits to those schools as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Drake, Michigan, Iowa and Marquette. From there Brake started to become recruited nationally.
Creighton first made contact in the spring of Brake's freshman year and they maintained a relationship ever since.
"I think I first heard from them spring of my freshman year and they invited me to visit (through
my AAU coach). I knew of the school when I heard from them because by then I had noticed
they were at a lot of my AAU games and I was more familiar with the regional schools and
conferences," Brake said. "I was planning to visit them that summer going into my sophomore year and honestly the schedule just didn't really work out. They continued to attend my games during my sophomore AAU season and asked that I plan a visit. My first campus visit was during MEA (week) in October of 2018. I also then went back to campus a second time for their home opener game in early November. I wanted to see the game atmosphere and see more of the campus during a school day. Those were both unofficial visits."
She says she already has one more visit planned there this summer, this time an official visit. "Because they already have four 2020 commitments including myself, we already have our official visit planned for this June as a group," Brake said. "I will get to meet the other 2020 recruits, their families and stay with the players. It sounds like we will be attending a College World Series baseball game because Omaha is the host site."
Players' experiences with the recruiting process vary across a wide spectrum and Brake said she went through different phases over the last few years.
"That is a hard question. I think I felt all those things. At first, it was really fun. Then, I could not wait until September 1 my junior year which meant coaches could contact me directly because I started to dislike having to communicate and reach out to a lot of coaches," she said. "The communication process with the coaches is pretty difficult. I definitely underestimated how much work and time it would require from my parents and me. I had a lot of mixed emotions because it was a lot of work and you literally have to reach out to coaches you don't know very well at first and hope they answer the phone because they can't call you. However, there was a lot of positives. I genuinely enjoyed the college visits and meeting so many great people. I went to a lot of Big 10 college football games. I saw the Ohio State versus (Iowa) Hawkeyes game which was awesome."
Brake has already eclipsed 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds so far in her career for the Raiders and currently holds the girls' program record in assists (377), blocks (251) and steals (405). She trails 2018 graduate and former teammate Krystal Carlson by 184 rebounds and 328 points, records that she will most likely break her senior season. She is just 77 points away from 2,000 and should she pass Carlson will be the leading scorer in Hastings basketball history for both the girls' and boys' programs.
During the recruitment process, Brake said most college coaches viewed her as a wing. She has been a great finisher in the post and driving to the basket for years now with the Raiders and continues to develop as a shooter. However, she said she's willing to play whatever role the Creighton staff needs her too.
"I am going to continue discussing with the coaches what they want me to continue to focus on. Regarding the role, I will play whatever role I am asked to play. The college coaches typically classified me as a three or a wing, possibly a stretch four," Brake said. "They consider me to be a versatile player who may play and guard multiple positions. I believe Creighton views me similarly, but a lot will factor into that as well. While they don't always play an up-tempo game, they do that some of the time. They also play four-out a lot which is a good fit for me. Actually, they had a lot of injuries this year, so it may have impacted some of their style of play. They communicated to me that my defensive abilities are what will help get me on the court. They want me to get stronger and keep working on my offensive skills."
Thankful for everyone's support
Brake said that her parents played the biggest role in her recruitment process.
"I certainly believe AAU helped me from an exposure standpoint, but honestly my parents helped me by far the most. They took me to all the schools and really made the choice mine, but told me a lot of things to consider," she said. "They really also encouraged me to think about how my role may be different from school to school, how I may fit and really stressed not losing any emphasis on the academic piece of choosing a school. When we visited Creighton, they had me meet with academic advisors as well as their strength conditioning resources which was different from other visits. My parents helped me a lot with building relationships with so many people over this process. They encouraged me to contact schools and a lot of girls don't initiate the contact with coaches which gave me an earlier start."
"If I were to change anything it may have been to possibly visit less schools," she said. "I targeted a region, but initially visited most schools that invited me and I think because of how it unfolded over time it kind of just happened but it took a lot more time and effort. Eventually, I became more targeted but at first you don't know who will invite you to visit."
She finished by saying how supportive everyone has been, including all of the schools recruiting her.
"There wasn't a single school that was negative toward me being a three-sport athlete and pressuring me into focusing just on basketball," Brake said. "They liked how it helped me from a conditioning standpoint, as well as getting exposure to different types of coaching, different roles and expectations. I am appreciative of how much support I have received from so many people in Hastings including coaches, teammates, and resources at the school. I would really hope to offer any help I can if younger players have recruiting questions in the future."
Brake switched from playing softball to the Raider girls' track and field team this spring while also playing for her North Tartan basketball team. North Tartan plays on the Nike EYBL AAU circuit-which for both boys' and girls' basketball is considered the most competitive circuit in the country-and travels all over the U.S. for both EYBL and other tournaments. This past season, Creighton went 15-16 overall and was 8-10 in the Big East before losing in their second game of the Big East Tournament. The Bluejays had made the NCAA Tournament the two years prior to 2018-2019. They are coached by Jim Flanery, who has been the head coach at Creighton since the summer of 2002.