After Injury-Plagued PU Men’s Hoops Career, Brase Relishing Chance to Play for Iowa State
CATCHING ON: Hans Brase gathers in the ball in action this winter for the Iowa State men’s basketball team. Brase, a former star for the Princeton University men’s hoops program who had a year of eligibility left due to time missed by injury, has emerged as a solid performer off the bench for the 11-8 Cyclones, averaging 3.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 appearances. (Photo Courtesy of Iowa State Athletics Communications)
By Bill Alden
Hans Brase was a constant presence for the Princeton University men’s basketball team last winter as it rolled to the Ivy League title and made its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2011.
But due to a right knee injury suffered in the fifth game of the season, senior center Brase’s role became limited to providing support from the sidelines.
While Brase enjoyed Princeton’s championship run, the experience was bittersweet.
“It was definitely great to be there and be with the team and support them in any way,” said the 6’9, 229-pound Brase, who missed the 2015-16 season due to a previous knee injury and finished his Princeton career with 863 points and 528 rebounds in 92 games.
“But at the same time it was so difficult to have to sit on the side, knowing there was no chance that I was going to be going into the games.”
With a year of hoops eligibility remaining after he graduated from Princeton last June with a degree in sociology, Brase jumped at the chance to play one more season of college basketball, joining the Iowa State program.
This winter, Brase has emerged as a key reserve for the 11-8 Cyclones, averaging 3.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 appearances.
Noting that he had a number of options for his fifth college season, including Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Richmond, and Nebraska, Brase found a home in Ames.
“First and foremost, I was looking for a place that had a great basketball tradition,” said Brase.
“I wanted a place where I got along with the coach and understood the philosophy and what they were trying to teach and the way they coach and just the type of people that they are. Also from a health perspective, I needed to go to a place where I had the tools in place to help me get healthy and get back in the court and get back to my old ways.”
Brase headed to Iowa State the day after graduating from Princeton last June and quickly bonded with his new teammates.
“Every team is different, every style of play is different but in the end, basketball is basketball,” said Brase, who continued his knee rehab through the summer and also took MBA courses in a graduate interdisciplinary program.
“Being surrounded by competitive guys and guys that want to get better and have the team-first mentality, it is relatively easy. It has been great. It has been a bit of learning; playing a different system and playing with different teammates.”
Making his Iowa State debut against Appalachian State on November 16 was a great moment for Brase.
“It was different, it was weird,” said Brase, who tallied four points and five rebounds in 19 minutes of action that night as the Cyclones prevailed 104-98.
“You always have these grand expectations for your first game back and then reality hits and reality isn’t as grand as you had in your head. But it was great just to be back out there. I remember afterwards I texted my surgeon and my rehab guy in New York where I had my surgery and just told them today was my first game back and I owed a lot of it to them. It was great to continue the process of getting back to full strength, but being able to do so while playing games is amazing.”
Brase is enjoying giving Iowa State some strong play off the bench. “My role is to be an elder statesman, a leader,” said Brase.
“Being that I have played a lot of college basketball and because of the way we played at Princeton, I have a good sense of where to be on the court in terms of basketball IQ. As I continue to get healthier and healthier, hopefully my role will expand and the minutes will start going up.”
Competing in the formidable Big 12, which includes such powerhouses as Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, has forced Brase to make the most out of his minutes on the court.
“The Big 12 is a beast, that is for sure,” said Brase. “Every team is at least around the top 25 and then you have got a couple of top 5 teams. It really is no days off. You have to bring your A-game every day, otherwise you can get embarrassed. It is a competitor’s dream, playing against the best every single game.”
With the postseason around the corner, Brase is looking to help the Cyclones raise the level of their game.
“I want to continue to get healthy as possible; I try to do something every day to help with the recovery or help with strength, whatever it may be,” said Brase.
“I am hoping to get more rhythm and get to playing more the way I used to before I was injured. I am trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. As a team, we are trying to finish the year strong and put ourselves in a good place for March, trying to make a run.”
After March, Brase is looking to extend his hoops career at the pro level.
“My plan is, God willing, to hopefully play professionally somewhere, wherever that may be,” said Brase, who has close German ancestry and has previously competed for that country’s national program.
“That is a big reason why I came here and why I used my last year of eligibility was to have the opportunity to put myself in a good position to then play professionally. Once the season ends, I will go through the proper channels and see what my options are and go from there. I want to play basketball until my body won’t let me.”
Although Brase is busy playing for Iowa State, he makes time to keep up with his former team.
“I still watch all the Princeton games, definitely those are my guys, I stay in touch with them,” said Brase.
“I don’t try to reach out too much because I want to let them do their own thing, but I reach out when someone has a really good game or reach out to the coaches and talk to them.”
No matter where Brase ultimately ends up, he will carry his Princeton experience with him.
“First and foremost, the things that stand out are the relationships that I built, not only through the team, but through other avenues of the university with different professors and different friends,” said Brase.
“The lessons that, especially basketball, at Princeton taught me, the things that Princeton basketball is known for, doing things the right way, toughness, precision, stuff like that, are easily carried on to everyday life and to your career.”