Home Sports Senior guard Brayden Fagbemi’s ‘future is very, very bright.’ That case can be made for third-ranked Benet too.

Senior guard Brayden Fagbemi’s ‘future is very, very bright.’ That case can be made for third-ranked Benet too.

by staff

Benet point guard Brayden Fagbemi had the ball in his hands when the game started.

He had it when the game ended too.

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That’s just how Fagbemi likes it and Benet coach Gene Heidkamp wants it.

“Brayden is a great player,” Heidkamp said. “I’m fortunate to have some great players on this team, and he’s one of them. He does a lot.”

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Fagbemi certainly did Saturday night. The 6-foot senior was magnificent in leading the host Redwings to a 57-47 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory against Marist in Lisle.

Fagbemi scored 18 points, making 5 of 6 shots and all six of his free-throw attempts, to go with four assists and three rebounds. The win kept Benet (18-1, 7-0), which is ranked No. 3 in the latest Class 4A poll by The Associated Press, in first place in the conference.

“He really stepped up down the stretch and made some big free throws and took care of the basketball,” Heidkamp said. “He’s capable of that. We expect him to make big plays in crunch time.”

After playing a supporting role last season, Fagbemi is relishing the added responsibility. The Johns Hopkins recruit said he has become more of a leader and gained confidence.

“Coach has given me the green light to do pretty much anything I want, so having teammates around me makes everything easier,” he said. “They know and trust in what I can do and my abilities.

“Being able to have a corps around me that can do anything on the court and a supporting coach staff is important.”

The Redwings love playing with Fagbemi, a talented all-around athlete who also starred for Benet’s boys soccer team.

Benet’s Brady Kunka (3) goes for a layup against Marist’s Marquis Vance (25) during a game in Lisle on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.

“Brayden is an amazing player to play with,” senior guard Brady Kunka said. “He’s just an amazing point guard. He’s a willing passer, and he finds the open man — and he can also score, as he showed tonight. We appreciate having him around.”

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Fagbemi and Kunka — who, along with Dartmouth recruit Niko Abusara, accounted for all but seven of Benet’s points — have great chemistry on the court.

Kunka, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, scored Benet’s first and last baskets, both off laserlike passes from Fagbemi.

“That’s what happens when you play together for four to five years,” Kunka said. “We have a really great relationship off the court as well, so it’s really fun to play with him.

“He helps me out a lot, and I help him sometimes, so it’s a good relationship for both of us.”

It’s good for the Redwings, who relied heavily on the pair against Marist. The RedHawks (15-4, 5-2) led 34-31 until Abusara and Fagbemi sank pull-up jumpers. That triggered a 9-0 run, which Fagbemi capped by burying a 3-pointer to begin the fourth quarter.

“That’s why we play for Benet, to get these opportunities against big teams,” Fagbemi said. “So when we’re down on our home floor, it’s second nature to us to just kick it up another gear and finish the game strong.”

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Benet’s Brayden Fagbemi, center, goes for a layup against Marist’s Adoni Vassilakis, left, and Marquis Vance, right, during a game in Lisle on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.

Fagbemi was the driving force, scoring the game’s final six points, all at the line, and grabbing two defensive rebounds in the final 47 seconds as the Redwings closed with a 12-1 run.

“I just clear my mind and shoot the ball,” Fagbemi said of his free-throw approach. “There’s nothing to it, really.”

There’s a lot to Fagbemi’s game, and Heidkamp said the best is yet to come.

“Brayden is just starting,” Heidkamp said. “He’s unbelievably skilled, and he’s quick and he’s sneaky athletic. As he gets stronger and matures, he’s just going to get better and better. His future is very, very bright.”

The same could be said for the Redwings. Few saw such a strong start coming.

“I think it’s just the togetherness of all of our guys,” Fagbemi said. “From the summer, we have had great chemistry, and we’ve been building onto it from the start of the season until now. We’re just playing like we know how to.”

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Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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