A taste of home: Having grandfather close by has helped NDSU’s Braun
FARGO — The players from the North Dakota State men’s basketball team were given all-green letterman’s coats a while back that they wear from time to time. Everybody except one player, anyway.
Taylor Braun gave his away.
It will forever remain a memorable moment for Michael Schroeder, his grandfather. The two were at a local restaurant when Taylor made a short announcement. Neither are of the loud, talk-all-day type so it essentially boiled down to one sentence and three words.
“Do you like this coat?” Braun said to his grandfather.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Merry Christmas,” Braun said.
It was more than just a gift. It was a symbol of thanks to his grandfather for being there for him in all five years of his Bison career. A farmer just outside of Ayr, N.D., Schroeder has made the distance from the Braun home in Newberg, Ore., seem less daunting because there’s nothing like a family member who’s been there for every home game except one.
“It’s just made the transition for me a lot easier being so far from home,” Braun said. “Just the little things like a home-cooked meal or if I need a place I can escape to, I can go out to his place. It’s been very nice. He’s been very supportive and has just made it lot easier on me.”
The escape place is a 1,200-acre farm of soybeans, corn and wheat located about 40 miles northwest of Fargo that includes a runway for Schroeder’s crop-dusting planes. His daughter, Taylor’s mother Kris Braun, is a native North Dakotan who attended NDSU before leaving for the West Coast.
Having her son return to the state to attend college was an unexpected gift for her father. Braun was lightly recruited in the Division I sense and was close to attending Division II Western Oregon before NDSU came into the picture in the spring of 2009. Taylor made a campus visit and accepted a scholarship offer in May – very late in the recruiting process.
NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said the coaching staff put an emphasis on Taylor’s grandfather being so close. That’s usually the case when they bring in any recruit from out of the region, he said. Any connection helps.
“Fargo is a long way removed from some of our recruiting bases, and a lot of times we have to find that common thread to get kids initially interested,” Phillips said. “When they get here, they realize it’s a really good place. The perception of Fargo nationally amongst high school kids probably isn’t close to reality.”
In the case of Braun having his grandfather so close, that reality hit home. Phillips said Braun struggled with the transition in his redshirt freshman year, but eased as time went on.
Certainly, grandpa has approved of his sticking it out.
“It’s just been a thrill to have him this close and to be a part of this,” Schroeder said. “It’s just been real enjoyable to watch him.”
He watched a skinny, high school recruit develop into one of the all-time greatest players in NDSU history. He figured his 6-foot-7 grandson would come along since he started school so young at 5 years old.
“In my opinion, he started school too young, and he was probably a little immature in that way,” Schroeder said. “But he progressed and turned into what he is now.”
Where is he now? Back on the West Coast for the NCAA tournament – the Bison play Oklahoma on Thursday at 6:37 p.m. CST at the Spokane Arena.
Schroeder, of course, will be there. So will a boatload of Braun family members who don’t have to travel very far from Oregon. The crew made the trip last weekend to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the Summit League tournament and occupied a couple of rows at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Schroeder was at every Bison practice in the week leading up to the tournament, as if to soak up every last day of watching Taylor play.
“You know how college kids are, they’re pretty active and hard to track down,” he said. “It couldn’t get any better than this.”