On one hand, Chris Braley knows what waits for him if he returns to Nokomis Regional High School next year. A chance to help the Warriors continue to improve on this past season, when they earned the team’s first winning record in almost a decade. The opportunity to break Ryan McLellan’s school record of 1,427 points in a career (Braley has just over 1,100 points now.) He’ll almost certainly be the favorite to win the 2012 Mr. Basketball award as the state’s top player.

On the other hand, if Braley decides to transfer to Phillips Exeter Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire, he’ll have two more years to mature academically and athletically. At Phillips Exeter, Braley would play basketball against a higher level of competition than he’ll find in Class B here in Maine.

“Nokomis, I’ve had great times here,” Braley, a junior, said. “It’s a big decision.”

Added Nokomis head coach Carl Parker: “It’s not an easy decision. I’ll be happy whatever decision he chooses. … You have to look at your long-range goals and what you want for your future.”

Already one of the best players in the state, Braley is only going to get better, no matter where he is next season. For his role in revitalizing the Nokomis boys basketball program, Braley is the Morning Sentinel Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Winslow’s Mike McCann, who led the Black Raiders to the regional semifinals and scored the 1,000th point of his career in a quarterfinal win against Medomak Valley, also was considered.

“He’s probably a Division I player. We had no answer for him,” Ellsworth coach Peter Austin said after Braley scored 43 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a 76-73 overtime loss to the Eagles in the Eastern Class B quarterfinals.

A first-team all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference selection, Braley’s stats were positively gaudy. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 25.6 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Braley shot 51.5 percent (183 for 355) from the field, including 42.3 percent (52 for 121) from 3-point range.

In 20 games, Braley recorded 18 double-doubles.

Play too tight on him, and he’ll blow past you for a layup. Sag off, and he’ll nail a 3-pointer. He’s big and strong enough to play exclusively in the low post, if that’s what Nokomis needs from him.

“He’s a very talented kid. He’s got a good handle, a good shot,” Parker said. “He’s good around the basket, away from the basket. Chris is someone who has played at a high level not just in high school, but in the summer.”

Braley learned a new position this season, often playing point guard for the Warriors. Parker made the move in order to get the ball in Braley’s hands more often. Instead of relying on screens and dribble moves, the ball was already in Braley’s hands, and that made the Nokomis offense more dangerous.

“Being in that role helps facilitate the offense and I could run the team,” Braley said. “I could get other people involved and control the tempo.”

Braley worked hard to get his teammates involved in the offense and is quick to point out he’s not a one-man band. Ethan Pearl , Ruel Libby and Austin Chipman each had big games, and sophomore Spencer Hartsgrove hit four 3-pointers in the season finale against Ellsworth.

“Everybody has to feel into the game. If you get on a roll, you’re more into the game,” Braley said. “If you’re feeling it (offensively), you’re more into the game.”

Prior to the season, Braley made a list of goals both for the team and personal.

He wanted the Warriors, coming off a 2-16 season, to get 10 wins. They finished 12-8.

He wanted to score his 1,000th career point. Braley did that with a free throw against Waterville on Jan. 28, in the 50th game of his career.

He wanted to score at least 40 points in a game, and Braley accomplished that on the grand stage of the regional tournament, at the Bangor Auditorium.

Most importantly, on a team with no seniors, Braley wanted to become a leader. He and Pearl were co-captains.

“The (team) chemistry was great this year,” Braley said.

Added Parker: “He’s just a down to earth kid.”

Growing up, Braley played soccer, baseball and basketball. Once he enrolled in high school, Braley decided to focus his skills on basketball.

Weaving individual talents into the team plan is what attracts Braley to the game.

“It’s one of the lone sports you can practice and excel on your own. With basketball, you can work on all your skills, and it helps the team,” Braley said.

Whether Braley and his family decide to stay at Nokomis or move on to Phillips Exeter (Braley was recently accepted for admission), his future appears to include Division I basketball.

“He has a lot of options,” Parker said.

A number of Ivy League schools have expressed interest, including Yale, Brown and Columbia. Many schools in the America East Conference, including the University of Maine, have interest in Braley, along with schools in the Patriot League and Colonial Athletic Association. Braley has also heard from Elon, a school in North Carolina, and Washington State.

Right now, Braley is just soaking it all in and weighing his options. In college, Braley expects he’ll play shooting guard. “It’s wide open,” he said. “I’ve got to keep improving my skills. My quickness, and my lateral ability.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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