Tiger Hoops Alum Bray Enjoying Time in Europe, Returning for 2nd Season With Italian Pro League
TOUR OF ITALY: T.J. Bray unloads the ball during his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Bray, a 2014 Princeton alum who scored 1,024 points in his Tiger career and was a first-team All-Ivy League selection as a senior, is headed back to Italy for a second season of pro ball. After playing for Pallacanestro Trapani last year in Italy’s A2 Gold division, Bray has signed with another team in the league, A.S. Junior Casale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
After mastering a famed system during a stellar career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team, T.J. Bray had to change gears when he went to Italy to play pro hoops for Pallacanestro Trapani last season in the country’s A2 Gold division.
“The coach ran a system that was the opposite of the Princeton offense,” said Bray a 2014 Princeton alum who scored 1,024 points in his career and was a first-team All-Ivy League selection as a senior.
“I had to pick my spots and keep things moving. We were doing down screens, passing into the post, and a lot of one-on-one stuff.”
The 6’5, 207 pound Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc., averaged 9.5 points, 3.0 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Sicilian club.
“I was a ‘2’ guard but I led the team in assists, they wanted me to shoot more,” said Bray, who stands third on the Princeton’s career assist list with 374. “It was harder for me to create my shots so I ended up passing a lot.”
Acclimating to pro ball left Bray little time to travel around Sicily. “I didn’t get to to travel much, we were practicing or playing six days a week,” said Bray. “On the off day, I was not looking to travel. I got to experience things near where I was living. I went to Palermo.”
Bray, though, is going to get to see more of Italy as he has signed up for a second season in the league, moving to A.S. Junior Casale, which sits between Turin and Milan.
“They have been after me all summer; they are in the same league and I played well in the games against them,” said Bray.
“They watched my tape at Princeton. They like to keep the ball moving. It will be more motion offense and spreading the court.”
To help hone his skills, Bray played this July in the NBA Las Vegas Summer league for a second straight year. After competing for the Toronto Raptors last year, Bray caught on with the New York Knicks this summer.
“Derek Fisher (Knicks head coach) was there with the whole coaching staff working with us,” said Bray.
“He was cool, relaxed. He knew a lot of us were coming off a long season in Europe so he was very smart about how much we practiced and making sure we were fresh.”
Bray saw limited action for the Knicks, getting into two of five games, highlighted by an 18-minute stint in an 83-76 win over Milwaukee which saw him score five points with four rebounds and two assists.
“I tried to stayed prepared; I didn’t practice great out there,” said Bray. “I knew it was going to be tough for me to get minutes with the players they had under contract. I would have liked to have had more minutes. I thought I played well when I got in, there were some plays I would like to do over.”
While Bray was disappointed to not play more, he still took some important lessons from his time with the Knicks.
“It just helps you learn to be professional,” explained Bray. “It is the NBA and there are a lot of eyes on you. It was my first DNP (did not play) for three games, I had never experienced that before. Some guys have a whole season like that in the pros; it was a good learning experience.”
Bray is determined to be a better professional as he competes for A.S. Junior Casale, whose regular season tips off in October.
“I want to increase all of my averages,” said Bray. “The team made the semis last year, I don’t want them to take a step back as the American they brought in.”
Looking forward, Bray is hoping to step up to a higher level of pro hoops.
“I am going to keep playing until I stall out and feel I am not moving higher,” said Bray.
“I don’t want to play in the second division of Italy for 10-15 years. It is fun to do this for a few years. I will re-evaluate each year and take it one step at a time. I am not going from second division Italy to NBA. I would like to play in one of the top leagues in Europe.”