‘He’s our Swiss Army knife’: Adam Brazil leads the way for Tigers

It started back when he was four. Adam Brazil has a love of basketball that can be traced to when he had a Little Tykes basketball hoop, all set up in his room. 

“I would go to my parents and get them awake, so they could come and watch me shoot at like 5 in the morning,” Brazil said. “Then I started keeping score. They were some very high scoring games, like 6 to 2 or 8 to 4.” 

Flash forward more than 16 years later and the Hampden-Sydney College senior still likes to put on a show. Except now he’s performing in front of sold-out crowds at Kirby Field House and the like, part of one of the best Tigers teams in the last 20 years. Heading into Wednesday night’s game, which was too late to include in this edition, the team stood at 16-1, good enough to hold the No. 1 rank in all of NCAA Division III basketball. The only period comparable is the 2002-03 season, when the Tigers started 22-0 en route to a 28-4 record and a trip to the NCAA Final Four. 

Brazil has played a key role in that resurgence, he and the other members of his class. When the Davidson, North Carolina native arrived at Hampden-Sydney, nobody was talking about the Tigers or their coach, Caleb Kimbrough. Adam Brazil was one of Kimbrough’s first recruits and said it feels great to see all of that hard work, not just months but years worth of effort, pay off. 

“When we walked into this program, it didn’t have a national ranking and wasn’t a program anybody was paying attention to,” Brazil said. “To gain that respect and work really hard to the point where our name is talked about and our school is respected, it means a whole lot.” 

Adam Brazil does the work

The team’s transformation begins with Brazil, who Coach Kimbrough refers to as the Tigers’ “Swiss Army knife.” That’s because of “his leadership, his ability to help his teammates and be a captain for us, along with his ability to score 20 points on any given night,” Kimbrough added. 

Averaging 13.1 points and 4 assists per game this season, the senior point guard and team captain sees his role on the court as an assignment to “make everyone else’s job easier.” 

Brazil said he focuses on taking good shots, scoring, playing with confidence and just being a guy that can step up whenever needed. 

Three names come to mind when he’s asked who he patterns his game after. First off, there’s Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors guard and perennial NBA All-Star who helped a team of his own rise from the ashes. Considered an afterthought for years, once the Warriors drafted Curry, they transformed into a team that competes now on a yearly basis for championships. Brazil said the comparison between what happened there and what’s happening now with Hampden-Sydney isn’t lost on him. 

“He turned that franchise around,” Brazil said. “I admire his work ethic, his character, his composure. Those are all traits I want to follow.” 

He mentions future NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash as another point guard to admire. But the third is someone who might not be familiar to many outside of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Buzz Anthony was a point guard who suited up for Randolph-Macon. Brazil said he’s studied the point guard over the years, because their style of play is so similar. 

“A lot of moves I do are straight out of his bag,” Brazil said. “I think it had a lot to do with our physical similarities. I saw how he was able to dominate games. He was always so composed. He always got what he wanted. He made his teammates better. I want to do the same.” 

Focused on the goal 

When you talk to Adam Brazil or any other member of the Tigers, they’ll say the same thing. Being the No. 1 team in Division III is great, but that’s not the end goal. 

“We’re definitely trying to enjoy it, but we’re also not trying to allow it to distract us from the task at hand, which is to get better and peak at the right time,” Brazil said. 

He thinks back to how last season ended, with a 72-59 loss at home to Christopher Newport in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. The team got a taste, making it to the tournament for the first time in a decade. But they wanted more. And it stung, Brazil said, to go out like they did, losing at home. 

“It stung a lot because we knew we could beat them,” Brazil said. “They kind of punked us on our home court, in front of our fans. I think we knew how close we were to reaching our goals. We really want to make sure we reach those goals this year.” 

The Tigers return home this Saturday to take on the Roanoke Maroons. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at Kirby Field House. 

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