Former Jacksonville State University men’s basketball coach Bill Jones often told his players that basketball was comparable to life in that you never know when the door is going to swing open and you will be afforded an opportunity to accomplish something and you better be prepared to step in. One of Jones players that best adhered to his philosophy was former West Limestone High School standout Rusty Brand. “You always knew what to expect from Rusty,” said Jones. “He was always consistent in his work ethic on and off the basketball court. Rusty understood his role in our program and when the time came for him to move into a more prominent role on our team, he delivered.”
Brand was born in Limestone County and his family moved to Section in Jackson County where his dad and others started a youth basketball league. His family moved back to Limestone County before he started the 7th grade. It was about this time, Brand experienced a growth spurt that saw him grow from 5’7 to 6’3.He would later grow to 6’8 before starting his varsity career with West Limestone. “I still get asked the same question even today and that is how tall you are and did you play basketball,” laughs Brand.
Brand would use his tall frame to dominate opponents while earning All-County, All-Area and All-State honors at West Limestone. He helped the Wildcats reach the Final Four of the state tournament during his junior year. “Rusty was an excellent player in our program,” said former West Limestone Head Basketball coach Jeff Prince. “He scored at will against just about anybody we faced. He was a really good passer at the high post and shot the ball exceptionally well. His field goal percentage was about 66% during his junior and senior seasons.”
One of the most decorated players in West Limestone basketball history, Brand was named the Decatur Daily’s Co-Player of the year and was the named to the prestigious Alabama Super Senior Team. He averaged 27 points per game, 14.3 rebounds per game and 4.4 blocks per game during his senior year.
Brand says he has fond memories of his high school career. “We had some battles with the county teams especially East Limestone. We beat East all three times during my junior year and they turned around and defeated us all four times during my senior year. I played on some really good teams with great teammates,” said Brand.
One of his teammates Jackie Moran says the feeling was mutual. “Rusty was not only a very good basketball player but an outstanding person. I don’t think you could find someone who would say anything negative about Rusty. Him and I attended a lot of camps together and developed a really good chemistry on the court. We fed off each other strengths on the court. I think a lot of Rusty. He has given much back to the community,” said Moran.
Brand was highly recruited and eventually signed with Jacksonville State over David Lipscomb University. “One of the hardest things I had to do was to call Coach (Don) Meyer at Lipscomb and tell him I was signing with JSU. I was just comfortable with what Coach Jones program and the school had to offer. Plus, they were transitioning to Division I and that was exciting to know you were going to play against teams at the highest level,” said Brand.
Like many players moving to Division I basketball, Brand experienced some growing pains. He was primarily used as a back up player to Jacksonville State’s All-American Pat Armor during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He continued to work hard, gained strength and by the time his junior season, he was a fixture in the Gamecocks starting lineup. He was the team’s second leading scorer his junior season averaging 13.6 points per game and led the team in rebounds at 8.9 rpg. He scored in double figures in 22 games. He averaged 10.2 ppg. and 7.7 rpg. during his senior year. One of his best efforts was 17 points and 11 rebounds against Auburn.
“I really enjoyed my career at Jacksonville State,” said Brand. “I had a lot of fun, made some great friends and played in some great games. One of the more memorable games was our win at Central Florida. I had the opportunity to shoot two free throws with no time left on the clock It was the first Division I road win in school history. I had a lot support from my family. I am very grateful to my parents for their support and my grandparents who always wore a button on their shirts that read my Grandson is Number 22. Even my great grandmother was able to attend some of the games.”
Jones says that Brand is very deserving of his introduction into LCSHOF. “Rusty is someone who I am very proud to say I coached. A hall of fame is for the elite and certainly Rusty’s career achievements warrant his induction. I think very highly of Rusty and congratulate him on his induction into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame.
Brand says his induction to this year’s Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame class is very humbling. “It is a real honor to be inducted into this year’s class. My parents are real excited and I feel very lucky. I had a lot of fun playing the sport of basketball. It taught me many life lessons. It helped build my character and helped build the type of father, husband and person I strive to be,” added Brand.