Glenbard West's Huff plays with poise, confidence
Former Glenbard West boys basketball coach Tim Hoder fondly recalls watching Braden Huff's first varsity appearance.
Even as a freshman, Huff had a flair for the dramatic.
Two-plus years ago, Huff strolled onto the court without much fanfare. He was a tall but skinny freshman attempting to find his place on a talented team.
Hoder decided to throw the gangly Huff into the fire, bringing him off the bench in the season opener against Glenbard South.
"Braden wasn't a sure thing to make varsity as a freshman, but we had some injuries and he started the year with us," Hoder said. "He was really skinny but skilled, but he came off the bench in our opener that year.
"Seven seconds after he came into the game, he caught the ball in the corner. He didn't hesitate, wasn't worried about anything. He was open and shot it. He knocked it down. But that's Braden. He just plays and plays with confidence. He keeps control of his emotions on the court, and able to stay emotionally even-keeled even when he was a freshman."
Huff laughed and excitedly recalled his first experience playing on the varsity.
"I had the jitters and was a little excited and nervous," Huff said. "I was sitting in the corner, and without thinking, I just hoisted it up and it ended up going in and the crowd went crazy. It was an experience that I'll never forget."
Huff, a three-year varsity player, is now one of the top players in the Midwest after putting together a sterling junior season.
The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Huff, the 2021 Daily Herald DuPage Valley Boys Basketball Player of the Year, averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 blocks in just 22 minutes played per game. He shot 70 percent from the field and 46 percent on 3-pointers for a well-balanced Glenbard West (16-2) squad.
Huff said he cherished helping the Hilltoppers claim a share of the West Suburban Silver Conference title.
"This team was awesome," Huff said. "We were tightly knit, and everybody played for each other. I think it really showed. We were all excited to play."
Even with multiple offers from Power Five Conference schools, Huff's long-range potential exceeds his current production. His combination of height, 6-11 wingspan, strength, perimeter shooting, driving ability, court awareness and vision to go with elite defensive skills are rare qualities. His game should also improve immensely with a full offseason of playing AAU for the Illinois Wolves after not traveling the club circuit last season.
Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said Huff's a complete-package player with no limit on his potential.
"Braden has the potential to be a professional basketball player," he said. "His mindset, skills, and physical attributes incorporated with his work ethic and passion are one in a million. At 6-10, Braden can play at all three levels and facilitate an offense. At a young age, he learned how to play positionless basketball, which assisted in his development in all areas of his game."
A team-first and humble player, Huff doesn't shy away from the possibility of leaving a memorable legacy at Glenbard West. The Hilltoppers will be among the top teams in the running for the Class 4A state title next season.
"We're returning a lot of guys back, so we should have a pretty good group," Huff said. "Next year should be a lot of fun. I'm excited for next season. I definitely have some goals, like First-Team All-State and Mr. Basketball. But the big goal for us is to make a deep state run and hopefully win it. That's the big one that we're all chasing."
Joshua Harris, Sr., G, Timothy Christian
Braden Huff, Jr., F, Glenbard West
Jack Mielke, Sr., F, Downers Grove North
John Poulakidas, Sr., G/F, Neuqua Valley
Ben Schwieger, Sr., F, Waubonsie Valley
Kyle Baskin, Sr., G, Naperville Central
Connor Davis, Sr,. F, Neuqua Valley
Grant Johnson, Sr., F, Naperville North
LaDonus Rogers, Sr., F, Glenbard East
Charlie Sessa, Sr., G, Hinsdale Central
Malik Bell, Sr., G, Metea Valley
Parker Brown, Sr., G, Wheaton Warrenville South
Qati Dalipi, Sr., F, Westmont
Bobby Durkin, Jr., G, Hinsdale South
Kyle Engstler, Sr., F, Downers Grove North
Jeff Grace, Sr., G, York
Connor Haake, Sr., G, Wheaton North
Cade Hardtke, Sr., G, Glenbard South
Kobe Jones, Sr., F, Downers Grove South
Aidan Kramer, Sr., G/F, Naperville Central
Frankie Krygier, Sr, F, Fenton
Vito LaGioia, Jr., G, Lake Park
Luke Nolan, Sr., G, Benet
Caden Pierce, Jr., G, Glenbard West
Marquel Saleek, Jr,. G, Willowbrook
Isaiah Smith, Sr., G, Waubonsie Valley
Ben VanderWal, Jr., G, Timothy Christian
Tyler Van Eekeren, Sr., F, Benet
Paxton Warden, Jr., G, Glenbard West
Zeke Williams, Jr., G, Naperville North