He has the body of a major college football prospect. But C.J. Bray's heart was set on playing college basketball.
That's why The Citadel basketball team scored one of its biggest recruiting victories in recent memory when the 6-8, 250-pound two-sport star from James Island High School decided to stay close to home and attend the military school.
Late last April, Bray received a football scholarship offer from Arkansas even though he didn't start playing football until his junior season at James Island. He finished his senior season with 40 tackles, including eight for loss, from his defensive end position. He played tight end on offense and his versatility, speed, size and smarts made him a college prospect. South Carolina, Georgia, Notre Dame, Duke and East Carolina also showed interest in Bray.
"There aren't too many big men who can run like C.J.," James Island football coach John Patterson said of Bray, who runs a 5.0 in the 40-yard dash. "He's big and has that wingspread. He's versatile and has options. I commend him for his decision because he did what he was best for him."
Bray knew he had options. Some big men are built to play football. And some big men aren't born to play basketball just because of their size. But Bray was talented on the football field and the basketball court.
"It came down to what was in my heart," Bray said. "I just loved basketball more. And the military aspect played a big part, too.
"Some people are scared off by that first year. But my family and I believe attending The Citadel will make me a man and open doors after I graduate. It will help me get a job -- start a career. I was really happy with the way coach (Chuck) Driesell recruited me."
Bray is averaging 17.2 points and 11.3 rebounds for James Island. He's improved immensely since playing in the 2009 Roundball Classic.
"Something just clicked for him in that tournament," James Island boys basketball coach Stan Wilkins said. "He just took over. He went from averaging 14 points to 18 points, but you just can't measure his improvement by points. He accepted the challenge and played better basketball. He played (on an AAU team over the summer) and that allowed him to face tougher competition. Playing tougher competition helps you get better."
Team TMP, sponsored by Trademark Properties, is a local AAU team that has featured many of the area's best players, including Bruce Ellington and R.J. Slawson, who are both freshmen at the University of South Carolina. The team plays a demanding schedule and that has helped Bray at the high school level.
"The thing about it is that C.J. came to me knowing what he had to do to get better," Wilkins said. "He decided on basketball and knew that would take a year-round commitment. He wanted basketball in his future and was ready to make the commitment. I can't say if he is going to be a superstar, but he will make a contribution."
Bray is focused on helping the Trojans contend for the Region 7-AAAA championship.
"Winning the region would be great," Bray said. "Win the region, make a deep playoff; it would be a great way to end my career. But the biggest thing would be to hang a (state championship) banner. That would be huge."