These days you’ll find Anthony Bratton patrolling the paint for Omaha Westside’s basketball team.
It makes sense — Bratton is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and has the wingspan of a 7-footer.
But don’t assume Bratton is your typical post player. He said from fifth grade through eighth, he played point guard before he started getting varsity minutes his freshman year, when the Warriors reached the Class A state final.
“Anthony’s been in our gym since he was a freshman, and that hasn’t happened very often around here, so that’s a credit to his raw ability,” Westside coach Brian Nemecek said. “He loves the game, he listens well and he’s starting to get a motor that you need to play at the next level.”
Though Bratton’s versatility will help at the next level, that time is still awhile away. Bratton is a 16-year-old junior — he’ll turn 17 in April — who’s in his second full season as a Westside starter.
“He’s a young junior and his best basketball is ahead of him yet,” Nemecek said. “He’s one of those guys who’s just scratching the surface.”
Omar Bynum also says that Bratton’s future is bright.
Bynum, who played three seasons at Iowa State in the 2000s, worked with Bratton this past spring and summer when Bratton played for Nebraska Hoops Elite. The former Cyclone thinks that Bratton could play on the perimeter in college.
“Anthony is a high-level 2 or 3,” Bynum said. “The 4 and the 5 (Bratton’s playing now) is just scratching the surface of all he can do. ... He’ll have to make the transition, but he’s a very determined young man, and I think he can do it.”
Nemecek looks at Bratton as a center only from a defensive perspective — he is Westside’s tallest player. Offensively, Bratton shows improved range and his numbers continue to go up.
Bratton, who had knee surgery between his freshman and sophomore years, averaged 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game last season. Through 13 games this season, he’s averaging 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
“I was still recovering from (surgery) last year, and I think I’m 100 percent now,” Bratton said. “It took me awhile mentally to come back.”
Bratton is also shooting 55 percent from the field.
“He has a great shot,” Nemecek said. “He has a great mid-range game. That’s kind of a lost art.”
Bratton is one of three Warriors averaging double figures this season.
AJ Meeks, a 6-2 senior, is averaging 14.1 points with a team-best 7.7 rebounds. Senior Trae Meeks is at 10.5 points.
“They know when to get me the ball,” Bratton said. “We have a really good chemistry on the court.”
The ninth-ranked Warriors are 8-5. Their losses include close calls to the top two teams, Omaha South and Omaha Creighton Prep, and they face No. 3 Papillion-La Vista on Friday.
Westside is coming off a 15-point win over then-No. 4 Norfolk. Bratton had 16 points and seven rebounds in that win while guarding 6-8 Logan Strom.
“I like where we’re at, I like where we’re headed,” Nemecek said. “To me, it’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re going to finish.”
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