Joe Bamisile and Brayon Freeman both came to GW looking for a chance at consistent playing time under a coach that they trusted.
Bamisile is a sophomore guard who transferred to GW from Virginia Tech last summer and has burst onto the scene with the Colonials this year. He has appeared on the SportsCenter Top 10 three times already thanks to his dunks and has no plans to stop.
Bamisile said he was attracted to the idea of playing for Head Coach Jamion Christian, who he said was different from most other coaches.
“I knew he was going to give me a chance to learn and grow,” Bamisile said. “I didn’t leave Tech because I thought I was the best player in the world. I left Tech because I just wanted a chance to develop in game.”
Bamisile has shown his development throughout the season, averaging 30.1 minutes, 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, along with a 44.3 field goal percentage.
But Bamisile’s interests go beyond just basketball. He said he has been making music since he was a kid while also painting on the side. He said he made two songs between December and January and plans to release more music once the season is over.
Bamisile, who releases music under the name Phouelisi, has 117,731 monthly listeners on Spotify and has two songs with more than a million listens.
“Right now I’m really focused on basketball as my main goal, and music is more of a hobby and pastime and another form of expression,” Bamisile said. “And I just think it’s really cool that people can relate to something I express that’s a feeling or an emotion.”
In August of last year, Bamisile walked around campus, asked GW students to dance with him and turned his journey into a music video for his song LOCO. The video has racked up more than 80,000 views.
“I’m a relatively introverted person, but I have extroverted tendencies,” Bamisile said. “I really needed a music video, and the song was releasing that night. I put on my little extroverted cloak and just asked a bunch of people to dance, and people seemed pretty excited to do it.”
Bamisile said he has been into meditation ever since his grandparents introduced it to him at the age of seven. He meditated off and on throughout his childhood but started his own practice of meditation while in high school, and it’s been a crucial part of his daily life ever since.
“It makes life a lot more simple and easy,” Bamisile said. “I enjoy silence. I enjoy sitting with myself. I enjoy being able to disconnect a bit from the world around me. I love the perspective I get to have when I can detach from my own feelings. I love the reflection that I get to have in those times.”
Bamisile, who is studying communications and psychology, said he hopes to get a masters degree in psychology after college. He said he has been enjoying all of his classes, and his favorite is called Philosophy of the Mind.
“I love philosophy,” Bamisile said. “Growing up I used to read so many philosophy books. And now it’s like, now I get to be in a philosophy class.”
Bamisile deactivated his Twitter last summer and unfollowed everyone on Instagram recently after having a discussion with one of his friends that led him to make the decision. He said he doesn’t want his attention and mind to be controlled by algorithms.
In high school, Bamisile said he dealt with a nagging knee injury that prevented him from playing his sophomore and senior seasons. During the first surgery, he had a screw put in his knee, but it caused degeneration of his cartilage.
Though he knew he had to get another surgery to fix it, he said he only had two offers to play in college heading into his junior year, so he decided to play the season on the injured knee. That season, he averaged nearly 29 points per game and was named all-region and all-state in Virginia.
“On a wobbled knee, I’m pretty proud of that,” Bamisile said.
Freeman, a freshman guard who picked GW over offers from Oklahoma State, VCU and Ole Miss, has also thrived in GW’s environment.
He said he wanted to play at a school where the style of play catered to his abilities and Christian’s offense fit the bill.
“I like the way his offense is,” Freeman said. “It’s an open offense that allows you to be yourself, allows you to be creative. You can’t get that everywhere as a freshman. And coming here, I knew I could probably see the floor.”
Freeman has also taken advantage of the opportunities he’s gotten as a Colonial, averaging 23.4 minutes, 8.9 points, 3.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game with a 41.6 field goal percentage. And he’s done it all with an injured knee.
“At the beginning of the year I tore my knee up,” Freeman said. “It’s still torn as we speak. That’s why I wear the brace. I’m planning on getting the surgery after the year. It was either get the surgery and sit out my whole freshman year or play through it and get the surgery after, so I went with the after option.”
Freeman said he has lived in the D.C. area for most of his life and said his favorite part about the city is the people and the culture.
“It’s just different,” Freeman said. “It’s a city vibe. There’s always a lot of people. It’s always crowded. You can never go outside and not see people. I just like seeing people honestly.”
Freeman said he likes to listen to hip hop, especially D.C. artists, in addition to writing and drawing in his free time. He said he describes himself as an “artsy” person and has a few tattoos on his left arm, on which he plans to get more.
“Once the season’s over I’m gonna go crazy,” Freeman said. “Next year I’m gonna be back. I’m gonna go crazy. I’m just saving it right now.”
Freeman said it’s odd going to a school where sports aren’t very popular on campus and games are sparsely attended.
“It’s all about winning though,” Freeman said. “Fans come to see people win. Fans are not gonna come to see you if they think you’re gonna lose. So at the same time, it’s on us to bring fans.”
This article appeared in the January 31, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.