Cornell received a verbal commitment from Braxston Bunce (Kelowna Secondary School) Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, 6-11, C.
Harry Parmar, Bunce's high school coach at Kelona Secondary confirmed the commitment for The Cornell Basketball Blog.
Each of Canada's major recruiting services consider Bunce, a 260 pound wide-bodied post, one of the country's top players. The site FlagrantFouls.com ranks Bunce as the No. 9 overall player in Canada's class of 2012 and also ranks him the No. 1 center. Additionally, Northpole Hoops also ranks Bunce as the No. 1 center in Canada and No. 10 overall. Consistent with these rankings, HoopStars Canada ranks Bunce No. 12 in Canada's class of 2012 while TheHoop-La.com also placed Bunce on its Second Team All Canada for all grade years and positions.
As a high school junior, Bunce averaged 13.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the Kelowna Owls. This past summer he played AAU/club basketball for Basketball B.C. and was a member of Canada's Under 19 National Team competing in Lithuania and Latvia. In international competition, playing alongside national team players such as 7'4" Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State), Negus Webster-Chan (Missouri), 6'9" Stephan Jankovic (multiple BCS offers), Olivier Hanlan (multiple BCS offers), and Kevin Pagos (Gonzaga), Bunce averaged 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for Team Canada in the U-19 World Championships and was the youngest member of the team.
As a senior, Bunce averaged 16.4 points and 11 rebounds per game. He was named the Player of the Year in British Columbia. He scored 13 points in the Okanagan Valley All Star Game. Both the Kelowna Daily Courier and the Kelowna Capital News recap Bunce's participation in the all star game. Also as a senior, Bunce was named to Canada's U18 Junior Men's National Team for the FIBA Americas Tournament.
Bunce burst onto the grassroots basketball scene somewhat later than most high school students. He explained to Rivals.com affiliate site, UDubNation.com (a Washington Huskies fan site) during January 2011 that hockey was always his favorite sport growing up. As a 16 year-old (he is now 17), he stood 6'6" and wore size 16 custom-made skates. As he sprouted another 5" in the last two years--- he dropped competing on the ice and opted for the hardwood.
Tucked away in Kelowna in western Canada, nearly 4.5 hours from Vancouver, Bunce had been somewhat of a hidden talent from NCAA basketball recruiters. His profile blew up however with a tremendous performance at the AAU event, the Las Vegas Fab 48 this past summer. He told Crown Magazine, "Playing for Canada helped my game out in so many ways being the youngest on the team. I had great coaches and teammates which helped me kick off an overall good summer for me. The Las Vegas AAU tournament was really good for me, boosted my stock a lot."
In Speaking with The Cornell Basketball Blog, Ross Tomlinson, Director of Athlete Development with Basketball B.C., Bunce's club team, told us that Bunce initially started playing basketball in 8th grade. His skill development and exposure to recruiters was halted, however, his sophomore year of high school when Bunce had to undergo a pair of knee surgeries, missing the entire year. Tomlinson also noted that Bunce missed approximately one month of AAU exposure last July while he was training and traveling with Canada's U-19 National Team.
When he did finally see some competition on the AAU circuit, NorthpoleHoops.com evaluated Bunce in Las Vegas last summer and wrote, "It's amazing what a few months can do to a player's development. We last witnessed Bunce in action in February where he didn't look nearly as effective as he did in Vegas. Bunce is fresh off the world championships with the Canadian Junior National team and seems to be as confident as he's ever been, both on and off the court. If he gets the ball on the block, he will attack the rim hard, which he displayed on one particular play, catching and maneuvering his way for a two hand flush. At nearly, 7'0 with proven skill, Bunce must make it a priority of his to put up a minimum of ten shot per game. Most of the time, his touches rely on entry passes which is his team's responsibility collectively. Overall, Bunce looked very good and we are looking forward to see more of him this week at nationals!"
Bunce's high school coach at Kelowna, Harry Parmar told The Cornell Basketball Blog, "He's a legitimate 6'11"... and did grow an inch in the last year. His doctors recently told him... based on the spacing between his [bones] that he could continue to grow." Parmar added, "Right now, Braxston is actually a few pounds lighter than what he was [last year] as he runs more and continues his conditioning. He's already strong... but he looks like a kid, he can become even more [physically] developed."
When asked about Bunce's offensive skill set, Parmar immediately noted, "He is great with his back to the basket. He can turn right or left and shoot with a variety of hooks and up and under moves. If he gets the ball on the blocks, he is virtually automatic." On Bunce's footwork and coordination, Parmar indicated, "He's already there. He's very coordinated and moves well in the post. Right now, I think Braxston's goal is to improve his mid range game and become automatic at 15 feet.... We are also looking to improve his free throw shooting, he was about a 66% shooter for us last year, we think he can get up into the 80s."
Asked about Bunces's aggressiveness and assertiveness, Parmer said, "Oh, he will go to the basket. We are asking him to do it more, but yeah he is aggressive and I think his experience on the national team really bolstered his confidence."
"He's a good passer as well, he will find the open man on the arc, but right now, the area we really want to develop is his outlet passing. We want him to develop that Kevin Love skill set," said Parmar.
Parmar also said, "Defensively, Braxston is a total space eater, he's long, he plays smart, he doesn't try to block everything, and he is a very good defensive rebounder."
Confirmed from several sources closely involved, including by Parmar, Bunce accumulated more than a dozen Division I offers since January 2011, many of which were made in the fall of 2011 after his stellar summer performances. His offers were from Penn, Columbia, Washington State, Nevada, Hawaii, Boise State, Utah State, New Mexico State, Montana State, Eastern Washington, UCSB, Cal Riverside, Portland, Portland State, Colgate, Maine, Lafayette, Arkansas State, Denver, and North Dakota. In addition, in just the last week before his commitment to Cornell, schools such as Marquette and Virginia Tech began to get more involved and extended offers for official campus visits, while others already involved included Boston College, Washington, Missouri, Purdue, Stanford, George Mason, Princeton and Harvard.
Before choosing Cornell, Bunce officially visited Penn on September 16 and then visited Ithaca officially during Cornell's homecoming weekend. Prior to his Ivy visits, he took unofficial visits during late August to Washington State, Nevada, Boise State, Montana State and Eastern Washington.
In an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian (the "D.P."), Tomlinson said, "[Braxston is] sort of an old school post player. When you see him play, he has a real finesse game, so he likes to go to the jump hook a lot, and he's got some really good up-and-under moves. You see some aspects of his game that you don’t tend to see a lot anymore, that he's really worked on. And he's very good going left-handed or right-handed ... He [also] has good anticipation skills, and he sets himself up really well underneath the basket and takes up good space, so he likes contact and he really establishes contact to get position ... I think as he gets older, his timing is going to get stronger as well. He gets off the floor fairly well, but that's one of the areas where I think as his body matures, he's going to get stronger and stronger in that particular area."
Bunce told the D.P., "I'd say right now my strengths would definitely be my low-post play, running the floor ... Rebounding both ends of the floor and just being a defensive presence, taking up space in the key, altering shots, blocking shots, stuff like that. As far as weaknesses, I'd say, right now, I'm really working to get my jump shot consistent. [And] for me, I can always ... continue to add muscle and continue to work on my conditioning."
On his college decision-making process, Bunce also told the D.P., "It's tough to pass up an athletic scholarship, but I think financially [an Ivy degree] is just as good. Obviously, you're not going to get a better education than the Ivy League, so it's very important for me. So definitely it will be heavily weighed on my mind when I'm making my decision." His mother, Cheryl Bunce added, "We know that if he graduates from an Ivy League school that he will be recognized worldwide with having a degree that’s very marketable and [that will] help him get a really good job, so I know that’s important to him.l
Bunce turns 18 years of age on January 19. He has a 4.0 GPA.
Below, an interview with Bunce at Basketball B.C.'s Media Day from July 2011:
Below, an interview with Bunce from August 2011 just after his play in Las Vegas:
Below, highlights of Bunce from international basketball competition with Team Canada as well as from AAU and high school games.
Above, an article reporting Bunce's commitment in Crown Magazine.