Goodbye Ben, hello Brandon: A new Haraway hits the court


Photo Submitted by Brandon Haraway

Guard Brandon Haraway stands at 6’2’’ 180 lbs.

Justin Davis

The thin hairband of rolled pre-wrap pulling back his ’locks and the nostalgic, thigh-high basketball shorts he wears hints to his overflowing confidence.

The slow walk resembling a slight limp adds to his unwavering assurance and calmness. His strut has been crafted over the years from preparation, competing against older competition and performing in clutch moments.

The walk is shared by his brother who strutted up and down the floor at Kate’s gymnasium for the past three years. A brother who took over Wayne State’s home arena with two dribbles, a spin, and fade away jump shot at the buzzer and who consistently wowed Ashland University basketball fans with his finesse at the rim.

“Our uncle was our trainer and he said ‘you have to step on the court thinking that you are the best player’ so that’s how we try to do it every time we play,” Brandon Haraway said. “We step on the court and nothing’s going to stop us.”

Brandon Haraway, one of nine freshmen to join the men’s basketball roster this year, has big shoes to fill this season. Ben Haraway, his older brother, graduated one season prior and left his mark on AU athletics.

Brandon’s confidence, along with his strong frame, quick twitch, and fearlessness to attack the basket, is what shoved him into the limelight at Norwalk High School despite the shadow cast by his older brother.

Brandon was awarded the All-Northwest District Player of the Year in Division II for his senior season. That season included an average of 20.5 points, a 24-4 record, a district championship, and First Team All-Ohio selection.

“Ben made a state run his senior year, so I kind of personally wanted to match that and my team was right behind me,” Brandon said.

During his career at Norwalk from 2011-2014, Ben Haraway won four Northern Ohio League titles, two district titles, and the regional and state championship. He led the Truckers to a 91-9 record over 100 games and holds the Norwalk career record for assists (507), points in the state tournament (256), and the Div. II state championship record for free throws in a game (15).

Brandon came after his brother and established a name for himself at Norwalk, but eight months later, he now competes for the same college basketball program his brother played for, under the same coach, 35 minutes away from home.

AU men’s basketball head coach John Ellenwood and his staff started recruiting Brandon when he was a sophomore in high school and monitored his progress in the following years.

“As we watched him grow from his freshman to sophomore to junior year, it was just amazing how his athleticism and his body had formed,” Ellenwood said. “We were excited to go after him once we knew what his talents were and his skill sets on the basketball floor, then you put into account his body, it was something we had to recruit and go after.”

Brandon stands at 6-foot-2 and carries 180 lbs of physicality and athleticism to the basketball court. As a kid he claims he was ‘chubby’ and played offensive line on his youth football team. As his bones lengthened and his frame broadened, the chub he once carried was exchanged for muscle and the years he spent pacing up and down the court, reaching for rebounds, and shuffling side-to-side turned him into a wide receiver on the field.

Brandon’s heart was split between football and basketball. He courted both without commitment. Each sport benefited his relationship with the other. Football gave him quick feet and a physical presence on the court. Basketball spoiled him with hand-eye coordination and an explosive vertical leap complimenting his ability to win on jump ball passes. But in his sophomore football season, an injury caused him to doubt the sustainability of a two-sport relationship.

“I tore my tricep completely off the bone, so that kind of set me back in football and made me have my doubts about it,” Brandon said.

His suspicions continued as he decided whether or not the physicality of football would reduce his longevity as an athlete. Ultimately, he broke up with football his junior year of high school and furthered his commitment with basketball, Brandon said.

It was during his junior year when basketball proved it’s faithfulness at an AAU tournament in Louisville, Ky. Ellenwood and associate head coach Rob Gardiner attended the tournament, but unlike many of the other coaches who fled once the senior prospects were finished, they sat in a nearly empty gym on the final day to watch the juniors, specifically Brandon.

Amongst Division I talent, Brandon stood out as ‘the best player on the floor’, Ellenwood said. Brandon was so dominant it seemed almost too good to be true that Ellenwood and Gardiner were the only coaches in attendance.

“We kept looking at each other like ‘holy cow this is amazing’ and we kept looking around for other coaches making sure we were the only ones there,” Ellenwood said.

After the tournament Ellenwood knew Brandon was the caliber of player he wanted at Ashland, he said.

Brandon’s performance showed glimpses of what he said put him into the lineup as a freshman in his first year at AU: his defense.

“His defensive ability is the best I’ve ever seen for a freshman,” Ellenwood said. “Brandon is a special, elite defender because he has the strength to get through screens, and he’s got this anticipation that you either have or you don’t.”

Brandon garnered scholarship offers from Urbanna University and Walsh University along with Ashland, but Ellenwood said the high-level, D-I loaded AAU team he played on put him in front of several Division-I coaches posing as a threat to AU’s top prospect.

Division I programs may be able to offer full-scholarships, newer, more expensive athletic facilities, and even larger game day crowds, but Ashland had leverage over all of these schools in the form of Ben Haraway.

Over the course of Ben’s AU career from 2016-2019, the shooting guard hit many different milestones. He scored over 1,500 points, earned a Master’s degree in business administration, held the position as treasurer of the accounting club, and developed close relationships across campus.

Ben Haraway graduated in 2019 with over 1,500 career points.

“The way that Ben recruited Brandon was through the success he had here academically, athletically and socially,” Ellenwood said.

When Brandon made the 35 minute drive to visit the campus and watch his brother play, he was roped in by the family-like atmosphere and the winning culture Ellenwood has developed over the course of his tenure, Ben said.

Brandon and Ben grew up with a complementary relationship. Ben was a mentor and coach to Brandon, motivating him on the court and in the classroom. Brandon said he strives to succeed in the way Ben has in all facets.

Despite the five-year age difference, Ben admires Brandon as the “cool brother.”

“He always has that swag about him and even as an older brother I look at him like dang, he’s a really cool dude,” Ben said.

Ben credits Brandon with having the epitome of the Haraway swagger. It’s an aspect of his personality he demonstrated as a kid. Brandon would often challenge his older siblings and cousins playing sports. He didn’t fear being the small one in the group, instead he played confident and aggressive, Ben said.

Ben is convinced Brandon’s biggest asset is that he is a true competitor. To Ellenwood, it is his knack for embracing the moment.

Ellenwood was constantly in Ben’s ear, urging him to help in landing Brandon, but Ben passively guided his brother along the recruiting circuit, Ben said.

He sat back. He did not push Ashland onto him. If Brandon asked questions, he answered.

Brandon’s first question was about academics. An aspect of his recruitment that caused the nursing major to commit to AU before working out for coaches at Division I Gardner-Webb University.

Brandon is pursuing nursing because he wants to go into a career field where he can interact with people on a daily basis, and his parents, who are both nurses, have exemplified the occupation to him.

Before he was committed to AU, Brandon met with Carrie Keib, dean of the Schar College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and concluded she is one of the nicest women he has ever met.

“Everyone here is so welcoming and they love to see people come here with a goal and that’s what I’m here to do — I’m here to accomplish goals,” Brandon said.

Brandon also inquired about Ellenwood’s coaching style and his offensive philosophy. Ben averaged 12 points per game during his career at AU, but Brandon’s success cannot be predicted based off of Ben’s.

The brothers resemble each other closely in many ways: they’re soft spoken, have nearly identical voices, and have a shared sense of confidence, but they are significantly different on the court.

“Ben was a guy that would make one move, you might cut him off, he’d make a second move and then all of a sudden he’s making a third and a fourth move and you’re just like holy cow,” Ellenwood said.

Ben used finesse to out-maneuver defenders and get separation. Brandon describes his play like that of Lebron James, a player who uses strength and physicality to get to the rim. If he wants to go right, he’s not going to allow the defender to reroute him.

From a shooting standpoint, Ben was a more developed shooter coming out of Norwalk, Ellenwood said. Ben shot nearly 40 percent from the three-point line in his three years for Ashland.
Brandon plays above the rim.

During his senior season, the younger Haraway corralled an outlet pass from his Norwalk teammate, strode down the court, ripped the ball through a Vermillion defender, and propelled off of his left foot with two hands clenched on the ball, out-leaping another defender on his way to a dunk. The crowd went bonkers. Twitter blew up. The video now has nearly 22,000 views.

In high school, Brandon was often the focal point of opposing defensive strategies. He was swarmed around the perimeter and demanded the presence of multiple defenders. As a result, he found more success attacking the rim and he’s more of a “streaky shooter,” Ellenwood said.

As Brandon gains more repetitions and becomes adjusted to the speed of college basketball, his shooting ability will continue to develop, Ellenwood said.

When each brother was asked who was better, Ben replied:

“I think we’re both great at what we do and I think depending on the team, situation and the team’s needs you might pick me in certain situations and you might pick Brandon in others.”

While Brandon, after he chuckled upon hearing the question, charismatically answered:

“We’ll see after the season, we’ll see what the stats say.”