SHERIDAN — In the summer leading up to his junior year of high school, AJ Bramah made a vow to himself.

“I promised myself that I would come back the best player in the conference,” Bramah said.

Bramah set the bar quite high, considering he had just completed his first full season of organized basketball. Bramah made good by his promise and claimed Most Valuable Players honors.

Bramah has grown, learned and advanced his game the last few years, and this season he helped the Sheridan College men’s basketball team navigate to the national tournament.

Bramah experience a growth spurt prior to his high school sophomore season, which stretched him to 6-foot-4. This prompted him to start playing basketball.

In an effort to get his feet wet, Bramah began shooting around at the local park down the street in his hometown of Hayward, California.

While some days saw Bramah squeeze in a quick shoot-around as the sun dipped below the horizon line, others saw him up at dawn playing pick-up and 21 with any number of people from his neighborhood.

Bramah, admittedly, didn’t know how to play the game of basketball. He lived off his athleticism and length to survive on the court.

“I couldn’t really dribble. I was just tall and athletic,” Bramah said. “My IQ was really low, and I couldn’t do much.”

Plenty of days at the park and numerous hours of watching Youtube videos of Chris Paul and Magic Johnson increased Bramah’s skill and feel for the game enough to earn a spot on the high school varsity team. After his breakout year as a junior, Bramah backed it up with a strong senior season that commanded the attention of junior colleges in Arizona, Texas and Wyoming. Bramah could have elected to go south where the level of basketball is high and the climate is more his speed, but he didn’t.

Bramah chose to take his talents to the desolate and cold Rocky Mountain Region.

“Just trusting (Head) Coach (Matt) Hammer. He was on me the most, so I had an easy choice to come [to Sheridan],” Bramah said. “Coach Hammer trusts me, and he puts me in the best position to be a better player. I may want to do things, but Coach Hammer will tell me that it’s not good for me.

“He’s honest with me, and I love him for that.”

Sheridan’s population of just over 17,000 and rural lifestyle wasn’t what Bramah was used to, but he has embraced it. He loves the local community and even enjoys what winter brings … somewhat.

“Sheridan was the first time I saw snow,” Bramah said. “It was fun. It was different. But I don’t like to be in it.”

Hammer heavily recruited Bramah with a focused mindset. He wanted a long, athletic player that could handle the ball, defend multiple positions, run and rebound.

“With AJ, the first thing that pops off the page is just his athleticism and how fast he can run the floor,” Hammer said. “He is so quick off the floor, he could attack the basket, and he could rebound.”

Bramah has filled up the stat sheet on more than one occasion. At least once this season, he has led the Generals in either points, rebounds, assists or steals.

Hammer still believes there’s plenty of room for growth and improvement for his stretch four that has played basketball for five years.

“His ceiling is higher than anyone we’ve ever had,” Hammer said. “He has got the ability to play at the highest level in college if he really wants to. … He’s a guy where he can play this game well into his 30s if he really wanted to.”