Whatever team takes Oregon’s Troy Brown in the NBA Draft is going to get a competitor. He comes by that elusive trait naturally.
Browns parents were college athletes. Both played sports at Texas A&M-Kingsville, where they met. Troy Brown, Sr. was an undersized power forward.
“He wasn’t gifted with height,” Brown, Jr. says. “To be an undersized four-man, he had to work harder than most guys. He wanted to go out and get every rebound, and to do that, he had to outwork his opponents. He taught me the value of hard work, of having a work ethic. He taught me to stay in the gym and be a gym rat.”
The 6-foot-7 Brown’s mother Lynn ran track and played volleyball. From her, Brown says, he inherited his athletic ability.
Here’s something else that’s important to note about Brown’s parents. They’re both corrections officers in Nevada.
It came as no surprise that the Brown’s children were athletes, and good ones. Oldest daughter Janae won the shot put at the 2002 National Junior Olympics. She was 12 at the time. Brown’s other sister Jada, also older than him, won a Nevada high school basketball championship at Centennial High School and was also chosen the state’s player of the year in 2011. She played four years at Kansas.
“That was a very competitive environment to grow up in,” Brown says. “My sisters did their fair share of picking on me when I was younger. But they also took me under their wings. I watched them grow and I saw their successes, and their mistakes. They gave me inspiration.”
Brown tinkered with soccer and track, but there was never any doubt he was going to play basketball. His father didn’t push him into the game, but he provided helpful tools along the way. At three, Brown, Jr. was already dunking on a toy plastic rim, jumping off furniture to heighten the degree of difficulty and foreshadowing a day when he would throw down a vicious slam over future Duke star and lottery pick Marvin Bagley.
Once Brown, Jr. decided basketball was his game, he dropped all other sports and committed himself. Obviously, his father also gave him an appreciation for great players of the past. Young Brown became a film junkie, watching everything he could get his hands on. Larry Bird and Penny Hardaway were two favorites. Brown studied their every move.
“The thing that stood out about those guys was whether they were making plays for teammates or creating for themselves, they were always playing downhill,” Brown says. “Larry Bird wasn’t the most athletic player, but he knew how to use his body to finish at the rim, and he had a lot of counter moves in his repertoire.”
There's a lot of upside. He's going to make big strides."
Brown chose his role models well, and like his sisters, developed aptitude for his sport at an early age. He began playing competitive basketball at four. When he was in second grade, his AAU team competed in the national championship tournament. By the time he was in eighth grade, he was the scourge of Las Vegas youth basketball.
Brown could have played at one of two Las Vegas powerhouse prep schools — Bishop Gorman or Findlay Prep — but he chose to take the road less travelled, like his sisters, and attend a public school, Centennial. By 14, he’d received his first Division I scholarship offer, from hometown UNLV. By the time he was a senior, he was a five-star recruit, and a McDonald’s All-American. Brown started every game of his high school career and helped lead Centennial to a 95-17 record. Recruiting analysts labeled him a small forward, but Brown was a playmaker.
When Brown was as sophomore, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski came to see him play. He saw a future Magic Johnson.
“It was a compliment I’ll never forget,” Brown says, “and I truly believed it. I’ve worked every day to try to live up to that comparison.”
Brown could have played at any school he wanted. He picked Oregon and coach Dana Altman, where during his only season, he learned an important lesson that he’ll carry with him to the NBA.
“KYP,” Brown says. “Know your personnel. Learning guys’ strong suits and what they can do well. Put them in position to do what they do well, especially with the ball in my hands.”
Brown had a good, not great freshman season, during which he stuffed his stat sheet on a regular basis. He led the Ducks in rebounding, steals and free-throw attempts while averaging 11.3 points. Oregon had Payton Pritchard to play the point, but Brown was a playmaker too.
“I would definitely say I’m a playmaker first, a scorer second,” he says. “Sometimes that can be a weakness. I try to make plays for people when they aren’t there. I should learn to attack more if a pass isn’t there. But I’ve always gotten more joy out of seeing my teammates get the basketball and score.”
When Brown decided to declare for the Draft, Altman summed up the state of his game.
"He does have to improve his shooting,” Altman said. “I think that would be what most NBA teams would want him to do. His ball skills are very good and his instincts are very good, and now it's more matching that with the personnel he's with. I'd like to see his assist-to-turnover ratio get a little better, which it would. ... He's only 18, so his body will continue to develop and get stronger. There's a lot of upside. He's going to make big strides."
Brown has been putting in some serious work at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, working on his jump shot — he shot 29.1 percent from 3-point range at Oregon — and his ball handling. His decision making will improve with age and experience.
If Brown does shore up his perimeter game, he’ll become a prototypical modern-day NBA player. Position-less basketball has become the norm, and Brown has the requisite size and most of the skills needed to plug into the right system.
“That’s very important to me,” Brown says. “Going to the right system. You want to be picked as high as possible, but at the end of the day, if you don’t go into a system that fits you, you might be a high Draft pick and be out of the league in a couple of years.”
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