HoopGurlz.com is reporting Sandusky Perkins All-Ohio senior center Cierra Bravard has verbally committed to Florida State choosing the Seminoles over Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Miami (Fla.), Maryland and Kentucky.
The following is a feature on Bravard as it appears in the current issue of Ohio High magazine, which is now available on newsstands across the state.
HoopGurlz.com is reporting Sandusky Perkins All-Ohio senior center Cierra Bravard has verbally committed to Florida State choosing the Seminoles over Ohio State, Pittsburgh Miami (Fla.), Maryland and Kentucky.
The following is a feature on Bravard as it appears in the current issue of Ohio High magazine, which is now available on newsstands across the state:
Sandusky Perkins senior Cierra Bravard is on of the country's top 10 players
Her friends and teammates may affectionately call her ‘C’ but when Cierra Bravard steps onto the basketball court, she brings nothing but her ‘A-Game.’
The Sandusky Perkins senior catapulted to the No. 7-rated prospect in the country for the class of 2008 and the No. 2-rated center – according to hoopgurlz.com – following a state runner-up finish last season and a dominating summer on the AAU circuit.
Last season, Bravard averaged 23.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game in leading the 21-4 Lady Pirates to their first trip to the state tournament. In doing so, she was named Division II co-player of the year and was a finalist for the coveted Ms. Basketball award.
“She’s a tremendous talent,” said Perkins head coach Ray Neill. “I like to tell people that she’s made herself into a basketball player and not just someone who is 6-foot-4 and plays basketball. She’s a basketball player now who happens to be 6-foot-4.”
That maturation process, both as a player and a person, began in middle school as Bravard and Neill have climbed the ranks through junior high and high school basketball together. Neill first noticed Bravard’s potential at an early age and became her coach in seventh grade.
“Back in those years, it may have taken you a while to figure out if she was right-handed or left-handed,” Neill said. “She used to just pitch (the ball) up there with two hands. She wasn’t a natural or a prodigy at the time – she’s had to work hard at it.
Neill recalled the Sandusky Bay Conference championship game Bravard’s seventh grade season in which she shot 0-for-9 from the foul line.
“We worked real hard with her on her game in seventh grade and it took time for her to work on that shot with her right hand. She’s put a lot of time in. She’s grown as a basketball player and she’s grown as a person along with that,” he said.
Neill took over the Perkins girls high school basketball program in Bravard’s freshman year as the developmental process continued for both Bravard as a player and Neill as a coach. Each season with Neill on the bench and Bravard on the court, the Lady Pirates have advanced farther in the tournament.
“We’ve had a little bit of success over my tenure and her tenure overlapping here,” Neill said.
Perkins was a sectional finalist Bravard’s freshman year with her contributing 13.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. She broke into the starting lineup midway through the season despite some apprehension on her part.
“We knew she was going to be able to help us so we talked to her about it and asked if she thought she was ready,” Neill recalled. “She was hesitant and comfortable coming off the bench but then we got her into the starting lineup and she has been a staple since.
“She will be the first one to tell you that the five seniors on the team her freshman year were a great group for her to come into the varsity environment. They were pretty good basketball players and intelligent kids who accepted Cierra and helped her in the learning process,” he added.
Perkins advanced to the regional finals in Bravard’s sophomore season falling 44-43 to state runner-up Copley. She earned first team All-Ohio honors, tallying 22.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.2 blocks for the Lady Pirates. After falling short in last year’s trip to Columbus, Perkins is aiming to take that final step towards a state championship and Bravard worked hard in the off-season in hopes of raising the trophy in March.
“I thought her summer was excellent. I thought she did a lot of great things,” said Bravard’s AAU coach Andre Gault. “She got into better shape and got a better understanding of what she can do physically. She dominated and played really well and in every event. She just got better and better.
“I thought the biggest thing was she got an understanding of what she could do and what she should be doing,” he added. “I started seeing her actually using her footwork and getting around and working around people rather than overpowering and going through people and she expanded her range a little more.
“On the defensive end, she is better at timing the blocks and has a new understanding of how to actually work and get rebounds. I watched her go from getting 10 or 12 rebounds a game at the beginning of the spring to rebounding 10 or 12 by the half.”
And like the senior leaders that took her under their wing her freshman year, Bravard embraced a leadership role as she developed through the summer.
“Her leadership took a huge leap,” Gault said. “I watched her make sure she was keeping on her teammates. She was able to look people in the eye and work together to get it done. Before you knew it, they were winning every tournament they would go to her because she was able to lead as the best player out there.
“She became a better teammate, a better leader and just grew all summer,” he said.
As she has developed as a player the last several years, Bravard has become one of the most coveted prospects in the country as she is entertaining scholarship offers from Florida State, Maryland, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky and Miami (Fla.) to name just a few.
“I'm still really open,” Bravard told hoopgurlz.com. “I will take official visits. I don't know how many, but I won't make a decision until after. I want to go somewhere that already has a successful program, where I can make an impact, play my game and not have to change my style.”
And like the senior class that contributed to her early success in high school, Bravard credits her current teammates for the acclaim she earned through high school, according to Neill.
“Cierra would be the first one to tell you that her teammates have been such big part of her success and our success,” he said.
While Bravard may not have started off as a natural talent at a young age, she has honed her skills through hard work with help from her teammates, coaches and family to become one of the top girl’s basketball players in the country.
“She’s worked at it and loves being in the gym. She has great support from her teammates and has a great family and we’re proud and happy of her accomplishments,” Neill said.
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