From chopping block to captain, Braden Scales becomes UB men’s soccer’s unlikely leader
When Stu Riddle took over UB’s men’s soccer program in 2013, a mass exodus began. He wanted to create his own program with his own players and anyone who came before him had to prove their worth.
Senior midfielder Braden Scales, a member of the 2012 recruiting class, tore his ACL meniscus one week after committing to UB men’s soccer team (9-3-1, 1-1), causing him to redshirt for the 2012 season. When Riddle came into the program in 2013, Scales was a candidate to be cut by Riddle.
He endured the stress of nearly being cut in addition to recovering from a severe injury.
“Every day was pretty nerve-wracking, because you knew he was going to make a lot of cuts,” Scales said. “You just knew that you had to perform more and work hard every day and try to impress him as much as you could.”
Four years later, Scales continues to impress Riddle. He describes Scales as “the type of guy you want your daughter to marry.”
Riddle decided to keep Scales while still questioning whether Scales could be himself again after an ACL surgery. Overall, he was impressed with Scales’ character.
“When I took over we evaluated all the players, from a soccer standpoint, from an attitude standpoint and from a student standpoint,” Riddle said. “So Scales was a redshirt and he’s the one who’s been fortunate enough to have played the four years since the start and he’s been absolutely fantastic.”
A fifth-year senior, Scales is the Bulls’ longest tenured player, the only remaining player that wasn’t recruited by Riddle. He was also voted one of the team captains.
He has improved every year and has developed into one of the most important players on the team. He has embraced his leadership role both on and off the field. He is a Lockport native and the only local who starts regularly on a team made up of kids from all over the world.
Scales often helps his teammates with the transition to Buffalo.
“I’m always the guy where people come and ask, ‘Where can I go eat, where can I go do this,” Scales said. “Some guys come to my house, my mom is almost like their mother away from home.”
Scales has seen a lot of overturn throughout his five years in the program. As Riddle worked to build his vision, many players have come and gone, and the team struggled early in Scales’ career.
“It’s tough every year, you have teammates come and go,” Scales said. “I mean you can’t even imagine the number of guys, I don’t know many guys who can come into a team and stay for four years. It’s a lot rarer than you think.”
It took Scales and his teammates time to gel. At first, Scales lacked confidence, Riddle said.
“I remember the first season here we started against Binghamton. We had to get him off after about 15 minutes because he was so nervous and he was giving the ball away every time he got it,” Riddle said.
Now, he leads with a relaxed calm about him and is the perfect compliment for fellow senior captain Russell Cicerone’s tempo-pushing, full-throttle style.
Scales said the pre-game routine involves a lot of Netflix, keeping his mind calm and not overthinking things.
“It was really special [being named a captain],” Scales said. “I think the guys really respected that I’ve been here for so long and they took that into account. I try to be a leader by example and through hard work.”
Scales, a finance major, has started applying for jobs while preparing for graduation in January.
But first, he has one more thing he wants before takes the plunge to the real world.
“Definitely a MAC championship, that’s what we’ve all been working towards for four years,” Scales said. “I think what’s most important to us is getting a ring. I also do want to make the NCAA tournament.”
Brian Lara is a sports staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com