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January 17, 2012

Branch Joins Red Storm

QUEENS, N.Y. - Former Texas A&M point guard and Class of 2011 Top 50 prospect Jamal Branch officially joined the St. John's men's basketball team on Monday, as announced by Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin.

Branch, who was rated as high as the No. 8 point guard from last year's recruiting class, is able to begin practice with the Red Storm squad immediately. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he will not be eligible for game participation and team travel until December of 2012.

"Jamal is an elite college player and a welcome addition to our basketball family. His skill, length, and quickness will give us backcourt depth for the 2012-13 season," said Lavin. "Point guard play is a critical element to success in the BIG EAST Conference and Jamal will be a valuable asset as we continue to elevate our basketball program."

"I chose St. John's because I think it's a perfect fit for me," said Branch. "They have a great coaching staff who I feel can help me a lot with my game. Those guys are like teachers in a classroom, but teachers of the game. They know so much about the game. We have a really great team and I think we could compete with anyone in the future."

Branch played in 11 games for the Aggies in the fall of 2011, averaging 4.2 points, 2.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. He fired at a 41.7 percent clip from the field and a 33.3 percent rate from beyond the arc, while dealing 28 assists with 21 total turnovers (1.3 ratio). He dealt a career-high six assists in his collegiate debut vs. Liberty (Nov. 9) and netted a career-high 10 points vs. Mississippi State during the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden (Nov. 17). Playing against St. John's in the 2K Sports Classic event on Nov. 18, he scored seven points with five rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes.

Branch was named a top high school defender in the Class of 2011 by Rivals.com and was rated as high as the No. 47 overall prospect and No. 8 point guard, nationally. He joins teammates Moe Harkless, D'Angelo Harrison, Sir'Dominic Pointer and Amir Garrett in giving St. John's five member of the 2011 ESPNU 100. Branch and Harrison are friends from being summer basketball competitors in Texas.

Branch was born in Kansas City, Mo., before moving to the state of Texas for his high school years. He played two years at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas, before spending his final two seasons at Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington. During his high school career, he earned four letters in basketball and two in football. Branch was the district's most valuable player, an all-state selection and a finalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Texas. He averaged 16.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in leading Grace Prep to the state championship as a senior in 2010-11. The second team all-area selection by The Dallas Morning News scored a career-high 48 points against Houston Yates as a senior. He played summer basketball for Team Texas, Houston Hoops and the Houston Swoosh.

St. John's (8-9, 2-4 BIG EAST) next heads to Tampa, Fla., to take on USF on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Due to renovations to the Bulls' Sun Dome, all USF home games will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum.

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