In a loss to the Greensboro Swarm on Saturday that snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s newest two-way player Brandon Sampson poured in 23 points, collected eight rebounds, and dished out three assists.
But type ‘Brandon Sampson’ into the Twitter search bar and the guy you’re probably looking for won’t show up. Thank goodness the Windy City Bulls @ all their players, and thus you can find @Bsamp0, display name ‘Forever44’.
But why is his Twitter account laced with references to No. 44?
It’s a tribute to a college teammate and fellow Baton Rouge, La. resident, 20-year-old Wayde Sims, who was tragically killed at the end of September when an argument outside a party turned into a fistfight and then somebody fired a shot. Sampson was a pallbearer at Sims’ funeral.
“That’s one of my best friends, he was actually my roommate for the past two years [at LSU]. That’s something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, our relationship. I had a really good relationship with his parents too. I just wanted to show my appreciation for my friendship with him. I just represent that everywhere I go. I want to keep him with me the rest of my life and cherish that.”
“He taught me to keep striving. Just everyday, be thankful for everything.”
Sampson is eternally grateful for his deceased friend and for the university where he spent two years together with Sims as teammates.
Sampson was born in Baton Rouge and attended Madison Preparatory Academy for high school. He was Louisiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2015 earning him four-star recruit status and the No. 39 position on ESPN’s top 100 recruiting rankings, and considered it “like destiny” that he would attend his state’s university.
In his three seasons at LSU, Sampson peaked his sophomore year averaging 11.6 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field as LSU’s third-leading scorer. Although a severely sprained ankle stunted his improvement the following season, Sampson said his experience at LSU “most definitely” prepared him for a career in basketball.
Even when over 915 miles away in snowy Chicago, Sampson has at least one prominent connection to his alma mater and hometown.
That would be Antonio Blakeney. They played two seasons together at LSU before Blakeney also went undrafted only to make some noise for himself on Summer League and G League rosters, and eventually earning his promotion to the NBA. Sampson has checked the first three boxes on that to-do list and now strives to check off the fourth.
“Stay the path, you just have to put good days together,” Sampson said about the advice Blakeney gave him about navigating life as a two-way player in the Chicago Bulls organization. “You need to continue following everything coach says. Continue working.”
Sampson has done nothing but improve.
With the Atlanta Hawks in Las Vegas Summer League action, he posted a modest 4.3 points per game in 12.6 minutes of playing time per contest. It was enough to earn an Exhibit 10 contract with the Houston Rockets who proceeded to assign him to their G League affiliate. Again, he made the most of the opportunity filling up the stat sheet with 17.6 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game in a team-leading 35.2 minutes per game.
The production paid off when he signed a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 27.
His 3-point shooting has rocketed up to 39.9 percent this G League season after improving each season at LSU. His athleticism is off the charts. The 42-inch vertical he posted at the Professional Basketball Combine would have tied him for the highest mark in this category had he received an invite to the NBA Combine. He has the first-step explosiveness to get past defenders and has improved his finishing ability at the rim.
Still brimming with the influences of Baton Rouge and armed with the memories of his deceased friend, Sampson continues his quest to become the 43rd player in LSU history to make it to the NBA.