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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Justice Brantley: 18th player in program history to reach career high of 1,000 points

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Number 30 before a game. Photo courtesy of YSM Media

With 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals against Houghton University, graduate student Justice Brantley became the 18th player in program history to reach the 1,000 career points mark on Jan. 25. 

“No one deserves this more than him,” Utica basketball alumnus DJ Harter said.

Given Brantley’s performance throughout the last four years and even as far back as high school, Many weren’t surprised that he was able to achieve this milestone. Brantley attended Catskill High School, where he was able to reach a high of 1,497 points. 

Aside from a strong start to his fifth season here at Utica, his four years of undergraduate were noteworthy. During his Freshman season he scored 134 points, as a sophomore he scored 60 points. In 22 games as a junior, he finished with 109 points. Finally as a senior, he started in 28 games and led the Pioneers in scoring  with 15.6 points per game, earning first-team Empire 8 honors. 

“He’s a great person to play with, a great player, very talented and skilled, more importantly he’s a good person with basketball aside,” said Dayion Thompson, Brantley’s current teammate. “When I first got here we immediately became close, hanging out pretty much everyday having conversations about life so for me to be a part of when he scored his 1000th point is something I’ll never forget as I’m sure he won’t either.”

Brantley said being an athlete has been one of the best experiences at Utica University because it has introduced him to many of his closest friends. He shares his love for his coaches and their positive influence on him and his teammates. Aside from reaching the 1,000 point mark, Justice said one of his favorite memories at Utica was winning the E8 title.

“Justice is one of the most determined and hard working individuals I’ve ever played with. It’s not a surprise to me that he reached 1,000 points in his career.” Harter said. “It’s something we’ve talked about since day one. The amount of time and effort Justice puts into his game during the season, in the off season, and everyday… no one deserves this more than him. More than anything Justice is a competitor.” 

Not only is Brantley a 1000-point scorer but in his years of playing for Utica he’s also won the regular season in 2022 and 2023. He also won the conference tournament in 2021 and made the first team in the conference in 2023.

Head coach Sean Coffey said Brantley not only sets an excellent example for the team’s younger players, but he serves as a model for upcoming players on how to fight through tough situations and become stronger on the other side. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of Justice and what he has accomplished here.” Coffey said. “It wasn’t always easy. He had to learn a lot, get stronger, change his body from his freshman year and on. He dealt with a pretty major injury, the disruption of Covid and the tragic loss of a teammate. He has prevailed through a lot for a young person.”

During his sophomore year at Utica, he suffered from a torn quad tension. Brantley said he grew frustrated with his inability to play and how this injury seriously impacted his training as he was unable to walk without a brace and crutches.  This was a long grueling process for him. 

“It was a lot to take in mentally. However, having good coaches, teammates, and family helped me push through, especially coach Coffey,” Brantley said. “My teammate at the time, Kobe Lufkin, really helped me everyday with getting in shape and working to get back on the court.”

After spending three years on the team with Brantley, Lufkin, now an alumnus, said when he got the news of Brantley’s injury he was devastated knowing he would be missing out on improving  his game and being with the team.  

“I think Justice’s mental fortitude to ‘stay in the fight’ speaks to his character and his ability to do difficult things.” Lufkin said. “Rehabilitation with physical therapists, trainers, and coaches can be frustrating especially in season while everyone else is playing. He was always willing to learn, take honest criticism, and ask advice on a number of other elements of his game and of college in general. I have enjoyed watching him over the past few years as a fan and wish only the best for him going forward.”

Regarding his playing style, Brantley said he aims to play fast and psychically, Getting into the lane offensively by using his natural instincts with knowledge from his coaches. 

To prepare for games he watches films to obtain a solid idea of the game plan. Lastly, he completes a thorough warm-up before reading his tattoo, “You can, you will,” which motivates him for the challenge ahead. 

Justice was also a football player all through high school and has a passion for that as well. His favorite sports team is the Dallas Cowboys, and he loves to watch the Miami Heat and Dwayne Wade play. He also enjoys spending time with his nephews, JJ and Julien, and he enjoys hanging out with his teammates. 

His teammates describe him as an amazing leader and friend. Beyond all of his athletic achievements, he is grateful for the lifelong friendships that playing basketball at Utica has helped him form. 

He’s an example of what you put in is what you get,” teammate Neruda Perdomo said. 

Brantley’s future plans include continuing to play basketball professionally, while also completing his master’s degree in business management, and going into the business field. 

Harter added: “Although this is an amazing individual accomplishment. I know that Justice and the rest of the team have their eyes on something bigger this season.”

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