Check-in with Utah Basketball Alumnus Troy Brazell

By Ryker Jackson, Sports Writer

 

Sports alumni are important to any team at a university. They serve as a tie to the past and a hope for the future. Sometimes they go on to continue working with the same program they played for and sometimes they go on in a completely different direction. No matter what the case is, they all love and believe in the program they played for during their time in college.

One such alumnus is Troy Brazell. Brazell played for the University of Utah men’s basketball team from 1992 to 1994 under head coach Rick Majerus. He has fond memories of the program he played for and has used it as a catalyst for his future endeavors, although he mentioned that the facilities now are much better than they were when he played.

“It’s been really interesting to see the sports evolution on campus and what that has done for the campus since joining the Pac-12 and what that has done for the school. That part is really exciting,” Brazell said.

Brazell graduated with a degree in communications with an emphasis in film and TV production. These studies led him to a job in market research, where he worked for a large company that did predictive analytics for companies such as Boeing, Disney, Pfizer, IBM, Levi’s, American Express and others. At this time, the sports analytics market was new and teams weren’t quite ready to implement it fully. The Dallas Cowboys, however, approached the company Brazell worked for to see if analytics could predict dehydration. This change came after the death of Korey Stringer.

Stringer was a first-round draft pick who died following complications brought on by heatstroke at the Minnesota Vikings training camp in 2001. The Dallas Cowboys were concerned with their players’ safety and wanted to know if analytics could help them predict when a player was at risk of dehydration.

Today, Brazell owns his own sports analytics company called Optima Sports Group that works closely with professional and college teams on all kinds of sports analytics. Although Brazell has worked with the football team here at the U, he has unfortunately not been able to work as closely with the basketball program for which he played. In fact, Brazell would love to be more involved with the program as an alumnus and has several former teammates who would love to be involved as well.

“I’m a little disheartened that there is not more up there for the alumni. They should have the alumni more involved, or at least give them opportunities to be more involved. There are people like Byron Wilson who are doing great things with the Junior Jazz, and they have Josh Grant who is working with donations and Andre Miller, who was one of the longest-tenured players in the NBA hoping for more opportunities. Most of us are still talking to each other saying, ‘hey, we’re happy to do whatever.’”

When asked what his suggestions would be to help the alumni feel more involved, he mentioned that Duke University has an alumni weekend every summer. They sponsor a basketball camp and invite recruits to meet alumni and learn from them. While this may or may not work for the University of Utah, it is an idea. According to Brazell, many of the alumni have expressed a deep desire to be more involved with the basketball program than they currently are.

Brazell had high praise for all of his teammates, though especially for one in particular — Wilson, who he played with under Majerus. Wilson also had very high praise for Majerus and the program he played for at the time.

“When I left, I had a great knowledge of the game because of how Majerus taught. Everybody knew he was crazy, but he knew basketball and he helped me out so much. Also having a diverse group of teammates, we had white, we had black, we had Tongan, we had everything, and we all got along,” Wilson said. Wilson credits the diversity of his team at the U with his success as an international player where he played with teammates from everywhere.

Brazell learned a lot from his time at the U and gives a lot of credit to coach Jeff Judkins, who not only recruited him, but was his mentor as well. In business, Brazell has had incredible experiences and has met amazing people. One, in particular, was Sir Richard Branson who has been a mentor in business for him with ideas for goals and accomplishments.

Brazell’s advice to current students is that education is critical. He said you cannot add anything of value to a company unless you have an education. He also stressed the importance of internships, making mention of the ability they have to give a student real-world experience that companies value.

He also emphasized the importance of finding a good mentor or peer to help you in your specific discipline. His advice to current student-athletes was clear: “Use your sport to better yourself.”

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@rykerjackson97