AJ Brodeur (W ‘20) has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember, learning the sport as soon as he was “big enough to stand up and pick up a ball.”
Growing up in Northborough, Massachusetts, sports were always a major part of his family’s life—in fact, his mom played basketball and track and field in college. When the time came to start looking at colleges, AJ decided he wanted to follow his mom’s steps and continue to pursue basketball during his college career.
AJ remembers playing basketball in high school, thinking about which college he would choose as soon as recruiting picked up during his junior year. He realized that in addition to placing in a good basketball program he also wanted an institution that could provide him with an excellent education.
“I narrowed down my choices of schools that were recruiting me for basketball to a couple of schools in the Ivy League and when it came down to academics, you know, I really didn’t think I could go wrong with my choices. But then it came to how much I liked the campus, how much I felt I fit into the program that I was gonna get into in terms of basketball,” AJ says. "By the end of the whole recruiting process, it felt like a no–brainer for me to choose Penn for all those reasons.”
After ultimately choosing Penn, AJ is wrapping up his studies in Operations, Informations, and Decisions in the Wharton School.
When asked about his daily schedule, AJ acknowledges the difficulty that comes with being a student–athlete at an institution that’s already pretty academically demanding. He mentions that, even though it was definitely overwhelming when he came in as a freshman, he began to get used to it and never regretted his decision for a second.
He remembers an instance in which one of his high school coaches reached out to him only a couple of months into Penn. During the call, the coach asked AJ if he thought he had made the right decision.
“It was funny to me because even at that point I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of being in another school, being in another program. That was the first time that it really occurred to me that I could be somewhere else right now, somewhere completely different, and how I would be missing out on all of the things I had experienced. Meanwhile, it’s only October of 2016 and I was one month into my college career and it already felt like I had found my new home,” he says.
AJ mentions that his experience with the Penn Men's Basketball team has been “the best of [his] life.” In addition to the amazing program—and having the opportunity to add to the team’s rich history—he has met amazing people who are now a major part of his life. Since a lot of his schedule revolves around basketball, he has the opportunity to bond with the members every day.
“You just naturally form those bonds and then somehow, we can’t get enough of each other, and we’re hanging out even in our free time, you know Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays when we’re technically supposed to be off. We’re kind of further strengthening that bond, which I think actually ends up helping us on the court, ‘cause I think team chemistry is such an important factor to our game that it’s helped us a lot for sure,” AJ says.
The bonds that the team members formed have led to amazing moments on and off the basketball court. AJ recalls trips they have taken together to amazing destinations, including the Virgin Islands and Italy. They had the opportunity to have culturally immersive experiences while simultaneously building upon their strong relationships as they explored new cities.
One of his best memories, however, was when the team won the Ivy League Championship for the first time in ten years in 2018. He remembers the game, playing on the court as hundreds of Penn students cheered them on.
The moment when the final buzzer announced their victory was surreal. The excitement was palpable as the crowd stormed the court. AJ smiles as he recalls the moment, mentioning that he was so happy he picked Amy Gutmann up and spun her around.
“It was such a crazy time, it was so exciting. I still get the chills sometimes thinking about it. That’s a feeling that I’ve used in the past to kind of motivate myself to give a little extra effort, to get back to that high I felt after the final buzzer went off in the Ivy League Championship,” AJ says.
As the final buzzer for his time at Penn approaches, AJ looks to the future. After graduation, he is looking forward to continuing to pursue basketball, ready to put his all into his passion, and see where it can take him. Even though he is optimistic, AJ laughs as he acknowledges that a Wharton degree is not a terrible thing to fall back on.
However, as he looks to the future, he can’t help but reminisce about his wonderful time at Penn. Even though his basketball postseason was abruptly canceled, and students were sent home so suddenly, he has been able to keep in touch with the team through online meetings.
“Still being able to go to those meetings and still be part of a team has been something that’s been really important to me these last couple of months,” AJ says.
As he moves on to bigger things, AJ will always take these experiences with him. Not only the moves he learned, or the emphasis on discipline, but also the amazing moments and people that are now a part of his life. As he looks to the future, he will always be fueled by the feeling that engulfed him after the final buzzer in 2018.