Brandon Austin (NWFSC Athletics)
Brandon Austin won a JUCO national championship at Northwest Florida State College last season. (NWFSC Athletics)

It wasn't too long ago that Brandon Austin was a 6-foot-6 point guard with skills that made him a player coveted by big-time colleges.

However, following high-profile sexual misconduct allegations first at Providence and then at Oregon, Austin spent last season far from the bright lights of big-time college basketball playing at Northwest Florida State College, leading the Raiders to the junior college national championship.

Now he is looking for yet another shot at playing at the Division I level.

At both Providence and Oregon, Austin was accused of sexual assault but neither indicted or charged with a crime. Yet Austin knows what his reputation is and finding another college to take a chance on him is going to be difficult.

"The media painted a picture of me that I was this bad guy and I wasn't," Austin told recently. "I'm just trying to stay strong through all of this, but it's not easy. I'd be lying if I said it was easy."


Providence coach Ed Cooley had big hopes for the Friars' backcourt in 2013. With Austin -- a promising freshman -- Kris Dunn, and veteran Bryce Cotton, the Friars looked primed to be a legitimate contender in the new Big East and a sleeper nationally.

"I like my team," Cooley told me at an AAU event in Philadelphia that summer. "We've got a lot of answers."

But things changed quickly when Austin and another freshman, Rodney Bullock, were accused of sexual assault of a Providence student and were both suspended indefinitely from the team just days before the Friars were set to open their season against Boston College.

"The incident happened three days before what we thought was going to be his first game," said Warren Greene, Austin's advisor. "We were pretty excited about the start of the season and then I got a call from Bob Simon -- an assistant -- and he told me there was a problem and incident on campus that was going to be investigated. I was speechless when I heard that." Just before Christmas of that year, Providence made the decision to suspend both Bullock and Austin for the duration of the season with the caveat that they could still practice with the team and be eligible for the following year. Bullock opted to stay and is now a major piece in Providence's program. Austin opted to transfer.

Results of the investigation into the alleged assault were presented to a Rhode Island grand jury, which decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Bullock. That led the state attorney general's office to realize there also would be insufficient evidence to ask a grand jury to charge Austin.

"I didn't commit any crime," Austin said of the sexual assault accusation at Providence. "I just wanted to leave and try to get a new start. I needed a change of scenery."

So that's what he got -- when he transferred to Oregon.


Whenever I reached out to anyone on Oregon's staff in early 2014 to see how Austin was doing, they all responded with essentially the same text message: he's the most talented player in our program.

Austin was supposed to be the type of college player that kids wanted to emulate.

Armed with the type of point guard skills that would make any player envious, the Philadelphia native made AAU Tournaments his own personal sanctuary before he committed to Providence and then Oregon.

"He's as talented as any kid I've ever seen," said Team Philly's Lonnie Lowry, Austin's AAU coach.

A gifted scorer, Austin looked capable of becoming an all-league player as a freshman and was set to join an Oregon perimeter already featuring Dominic Artis, Joseph Young, and Damyean Dotson.

The Ducks looked primed to be a Top 15 team nationally and were ready to challenge Pac-12 favorite Arizona at the top of the conference standings.

"We thought it would be a good situation for him," Greene said. "It was a place where he could get away and Coach (Dana) Altman was an experienced coach. We thought it was a fit."

Initially it was. Austin blended well with his teammates and coaches all while seeming to enjoy being out of the fishbowl that exists for highly touted prospects who are originally from the Northeast. The simple life of the Great Northwest seemed to fit Austin despite his Philadelphia roots.

"Everything was going good," Austin said of his early time at Oregon. "I was focused on the right things."

Then came another accusation of involvement in a sexual assault when Austin, Artis and Dotson were investigated for a rape at a party in March 2014.

Again, no charges were filed, but Austin and his teammates were dismissed from the Oregon basketball team and banned from campus by the university.

For Austin, it was a second ugly accusation and one that further inhibited a career that initially began with nothing but promise.

"We talked before he went to Oregon," Lowry said. "I told him to do the right thing, do his schoolwork, and stay out of trouble. To stay out of harms way."

"He was really doing well at Oregon and that's what made things even harder," Greene added. "The coaches were happy with him. Then he made a decision to join his teammates one night and the whole thing snowballed --- again."

Austin's name had now become toxic and radioactive in basketball circles.

The question was, could he find a place that would take a chance on him?


After initially attempting to land at Hutchinson Community College, Austin found a home at Northwest Florida State. Playing in near-empty gyms away from TV cameras, Austin enjoyed a productive year in the Florida panhandle and averaged 15.8 points while starting 35 games on a team that won the junior-college national title.

"It was different than other places," Austin said of this past year at Northwest Florida State. "It got me stronger. I think it humbled me. I know I'm better than that level. It's just been really a humbling experience."

One that will prove to be vital if he's to get a third chance at big time college basketball. Austin has had interest from smaller Division I schools, but the fire in him burns for more than that. He wants the big stage he initially had a chance to play on at both Providence and Oregon before making mistakes that ultimately cost him each of those opportunities.

"It's a lot of ups and downs," Lowry said. "I talk to college coaches all the time. When I hear a coach say that he doesn't want to recruit a kid because he sees something negative on twitter, I say to myself 'how am I going help Brandon'? How can we help this kid? It's kind of crazy. The last month or so I thought somebody would take a chance, but it hasn't happened. It's been tough."

Somebody though has taken a chance on the other two kids who were a part of the incident at Oregon. Dotson signed with Houston this Spring and will be a major contributor for Kelvin Sampson next year while Artis landed at UTEP under Tim Floyd.

Austin says he feels no bitterness or envy towards his former teammates and instead wishes them the best in their next chapter.

"I was really happy for those guys," Austin said of Dotson and Artis. "We all went through the same thing. We always text each other to keep each other motivated. I was really happy for them."

But what about him?

The skinny kid we remember from high school is now bigger and stronger. He can absorb more contact when he goes to the rim and is still lethal from any of the three perimeter positions on the floor.

"I'm more developed now than I was in high school," Austin said. "I'm more mature. I can shoot it a little better, too. I'm just going to stay strong and stay focused. I'm staying close to my family. They're helping me every day. If a college coach wants to know what they're getting with me it's a player who can do everything. I'm a changed person. I went through some stuff that got me stronger and got me smarter."

Time heals wounds and people do get wiser with age, but will a college coach at the highest level take a chance on Austin despite his past?

That's to be determined.

"He hasn't been charged with anything," Lowry said. "I've talked to him numerous times and he told me didn't do anything wrong. It's tough because there's a lot of people saying he did it and then he was involved in something twice so people are saying well he definitely did it. The facts are the facts: Brandon wasn't charged with anything."

"It's been tough because he hasn't been able to do what he hoped to accomplish," Greene added. "Play at a high level of Division I basketball, play in the NCAA Tournament. Things like that."

Those are things for only Austin to dream about now.

So he lives day-to-day, which is really the only way he can under the circumstances. He trains like a man possessed, getting ready for a season that he ultimately hopes will be against the best of the best.

He doesn't know if he'll ever again get that opportunity, but that doesn't alter the way he prepares.

"Eventually it will happen," Austin said of playing at a high-major school. "I believe that."