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May 31, 2013
It wasn't long ago that Brandone Francis had a tough decision to make.
Despite minimal knowledge of English, he left his home in the Dominican Republic to see what doors basketball could open for him in the United States.
He's never looked back as he has gone from relative unknown to one of the hottest names in the game.
Now a rising senior at Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day, the 6-foot-5 combo guard is the talk of the grassroots circuit. But success didn't come without early struggles as Francis learned what it took to excel in the States after his arrival as a freshman.
"It was tough at the beginning when I came to the States," Francis told Rivals.com. "I never gave up and I was so focused on what I really wanted and I knew my path and my way isn't going to be easy. It was tough at the beginning but I worked on my English and I began understanding classes quickly."
While Francis quickly learned a new language and way of life, it took him a while to adjust to playing. He would show flashes, but wasn't always in the best of shape. Then, last summer an injury turned things around.
"After I broke my wrist last summer, my thinking changed," said Francis. "I became a different person and a different player because I was more focused than before."
The work showed during his junior season at ACD and it has all come together during the spring as he's toured the country with Florida Elite. Francis has proven he can run the point or slide off the ball and play as a highly skilled shooting guard.
A three-star prospect, Francis is poised to make a big splash in the 2014 Rivals150 and be elevated to at least a high-end, four-star prospect when the rankings are updated in late June.
While others might have gotten down and wondered why they weren't getting the attention they felt they deserved, Francis kept his focus on the bigger picture.
"I'm so happy and looking forward to finishing this summer strong," Francis said. "I didn't have that much exposure. I was thinking about what am I doing wrong and what do I need to do to step my game up to the next level. I just worked on my weaknesses and became a better player from the hard work that I put in the gym every day."
Recognition in the rankings is one thing; recognition from college coaches is another. In the past week, defending champion Louisville offered and Kansas told him it plans to monitor him during the summer.
Others that have offered scholarships include Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Miami, Washington, West Virginia and Cincinnati. He has so much interest from college programs that it has become virtually impossible to not miss naming a school when asked who has shown interest.
Though the interest might overwhelm some prospects, Francis is in no rush to make a decision or cut down his list. He'll continue to travel the grassroots circuit with the Adidas sponsored Florida Elite and has stops planned at the prestigious Deron Williams and Chris Paul Skill's Academies as well as the NBPA Top 100.
Eventually he'll cut down his college list and he says that finding a place that fits his playing style and develop him for the pros is important. For now, though, he's not even sure what position he will play in college and is simply focused on the moment and continuing to get better.
"To be honest, in college, I don't know what position I will play," said Francis. "I'll go out and play the position that the coach needs. If the coach needs me to play the point, I will play the point. I can play either the point or the two. When I play the point and have the ball in my hands, I can make plays.
"I just want to work on my whole game. I'm focused on not slipping on anything and keeping my handles and my defense up. I just want to become a better leader."