From 2011 to 2015, Branden Dawson was one of the key players for the Michigan State University men’s basketball team.
A native of Gary, Indiana, Dawson came from little, but he was blessed with the ability to play basketball. He is MSU’s career blocks leader with 142, fifth in career starts, sixth in career steals and seventh in career rebounds. Dawson is also one of just three players in MSU history with 1,000 career points and 100 career blocks, joining Draymond Green and Adreian Payne.
Dawson took some time to answer questions about his basketball journey, his motivation and his future goals.
Spartan Newsroom: Your freshman season at MSU came to an end after you tore your left ACL in a game against Ohio State. How disappointed were you? How did you rehab? Were you confident you’d be back better than before?
Branden Dawson: I was very disappointed and devastated after my freshman season came to an end. That was my first severe injury I suffered as an athlete. So many things went through my mind after what happened. I told myself, ‘Is this it for me?’ I didn’t think I would be able to run the same, be athletic or still have the same explosiveness. However, I couldn’t let my doubts interfere with my mindset. My family, friends and coaches told me that everything was going to be fine and that I would be back better than before. With that being said, I knew that I was going to have to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. My rehab consisted of a lot of flexibility exercises, getting my motion back, swimming, balance exercises, and strengthening almost every muscle I could possibly think of.
SN: In January 2014, you broke your right hand. Were you upset with yourself over this injury? Did you learn anything from this injury? How long were you out?
Dawson: Breaking my hand was by far the most irrational thing I’ve ever done. I let my anger get the best of me and I couldn’t control my anger. I let my teammates down and a lot of people were upset by what I had done. On that day, I learned that holding yourself accountable is something you have to do if you’re going to accomplish anything in life. I also learned to never let your emotions get the best of you and to think before you react towards any situation. I was out for about four to six weeks and it was a hard pill to swallow after I realized what I had done.
SN: After you left MSU, you were selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 56th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, but traded to the Los Angeles Clippers later that night. What was that experience like? Were you pleased with everything that went down?
Dawson: Getting drafted was the ultimate time of my life. The whole experience was mind blowing, and that was something that I dreamed about as a kid. I was pleased with being traded to the L.A. Clippers because honestly, I did not care which team selected me.
SN: During your rookie season, using the flexible assignment rule, you received multiple assignments to the Bakersfield Jam, Grand Rapids Drive and Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League. What was that experience like? Were you upset at all to be in the D League?
Dawson: This was a huge test for me because I did not know what to expect. I knew this was a league to help guys grow as athletes and showcase their talent along with other players who were just as good as myself. The adjustment to everything was hard for me at first but once I found my niche, I then knew what had to be done.
SN: After making a debut in the NBA again, a few months later you were waived by the Clippers. What was going through your mind after that happened?
Dawson: After being waived by the Clippers, I knew I had to make some changes in my life. I knew that it was also a business. I felt like they never gave me a chance to prove myself. I lost a lot of confidence within myself because everything was thrown at me so fast. A lot of emotions went through my mind, but I told myself this isn’t the end of the road for me. One door closes and another one will open.
SN: You signed with the Orlando Magic, but you were later waived. What were your emotions when this happened?
Dawson: On Sept. 8, 2016, I was waived by the Orlando Magic. I questioned myself and had many doubts. I didn’t know what I was during wrong. This was the second time I had been waived, but that didn’t stop my faith and my dedication towards the game. I told myself I have to keep working and that where you want to go in life is never easy.
SN: On Oct. 29, you were acquired by the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League as an affiliate player of the Magic. Months later you were waived by the BayHawks. How were you feeling after that happened?
Dawson: I was released by the Erie BayHawks to pursue my first opportunity to play overseas. It was a tough decision, but I wanted to try something different. I went to Israel to play for a month and it was a humbling experience being able to branch out to another country to play.
SN: You have played in Israel and are now in Japan. What made you play internationally? What has the experience been like? Is it hard playing overseas?
Dawson: Making the decision to play internationally was really hard. Being away from your family is never easy. I felt so disconnected from the world. Playing internationally isn’t a bad idea and many players are successful by doing so. It’s a blessing being able to wake up and having the opportunity to do something you have a passion for every day.
SN: You are currently rehabbing. What injury are you recovering from?
Dawson: I am currently rehabbing an injury I suffered in one of our pre-season games. I bruised a bone in my knee which will take about four to six weeks to heal, maybe even longer.
SN: After being signed to multiple different teams and traveling from city to city, did you ever think to give up? Did you doubt yourself?
Dawson: I knew that I could not give up. I’m young and I have a long career ahead of me. Every setback in life is a test. It’s up to you to decide what you want to be or where you want to be in life. It’s never going to be easy, being successful is a grind and it takes determination, dedication, passion and grit.
SN: Why do you think you moved around so much in your career? Did you expect to be where you are today?
Dawson: I personally believe that I moved around so much in my career because distractions, temptation, complacency and my work ethic. Growing up, everything came easy to me. I was bigger and stronger coming out of high school. I led all the rankings, being a McDonald’s All-American over-shadowed my goals. It caught up to me during college and I wasn’t the player I knew I was capable of.
SN: What keeps you motivated?
Dawson: My son, my family, my inner self, and some of my colleagues keep me motivated. Motivation is something I’ve always had because I came from nothing, and I told myself I would do anything to make my mom proud.
SN: What are your future goals?
Dawson: My future goals are making it back to the NBA, leaving my legacy on the game, buy my mom a house, and invest in different businesses. I also want to become an agent (specifically basketball). Going back to school to earn my master’s degree in business is also something I have planned to do after I’m done playing.