Markel Brown Has Overcome the Death of Loved Ones to Get a Chance at an NBA Career

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins

ORLANDO – When his name was called in the 2014 NBA Draft, Markel Brown hugged his sister, Moryia, and his grandmother, Jerri Mae Eggins, because really, who else was there to hug?

His mother, Antoinette Brown, died in 2006 when Brown was 14 of complications stemming from a brain aneurism.

His uncle, David Eggins, the closest male he had to a father figure, died three months later trying to rescue two elderly women from a house fire.

His father, Damian, had been in and out prison for most of Brown’s life.

“I feel like I’m NBA ready,’’ Brown told BrooklynNets.com. “I feel like I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my life, on and off the basketball court.’’

Brown, a 6-3 combo guard with a 6-9 wingspan has been making that point this week in the Orlando Pro Summer League. He scored the Brooklyn Nets’ first points of the week, fittingly, on a dunk, and hasn’t looked back.

He’s averaged eight points on 9-of-18 shooting, 3.3 rebounds and four assists. He’s posted some of the most jaw-dropping dunks of the week, something he was known for in college.

Brown, 22, already has made it off the court. He’s overcome the death of loved ones, as well as the drug and alcohol abuse that ruined friends and other family members. He got his degree in general studies from Oklahoma State in four years.

He’s ready to make the jump from college to the NBA, and from Alexandria, La., (population of less than 50,000) to Brooklyn (population of more than 2.6 million).

When asked what he hoped Nets fans would be saying about him at the midway point of the season, Brown remained humble.

“He’s a hard worker and he never gives up,’’ said Brown.

Brown certainly has had reason to give in, if not give up.

He was six when his mother first suffered the aneurysm. When Antoinette died, Markel was left to look after his sisters, Moryia and Tara.

When his uncle died, his grandmother, whom Brown calls mom and who had taken in Markel and sisters, looked after them all.

But Brown knew he had to look after himself. Other family members and friends were getting caught up in the life. Not Brown.

“Yeah, you think, Why me?’’ said Brown. “When both of those things happened at the same time, it really took a toll on me. But at the same time I had a lot of support from my family.’’

He’s needed that support. Despite being named Mr. Basketball in Louisiana, Brown couldn’t get an offer from LSU. The first sting of feeling overlooked burned.

At Oklahoma State, Brown became the only player in school history to score 1,500 points, grab 500 rebounds, dish 300 assists, block 100 shots and make 100 steals.

But he played alongside Marcus Smart, the sixth player taken in the draft. Brown was picked 44th. Overlooked again, he believes.

“We talked before and after the draft,’’ Brown said of he and Smart. “He was so happy for me that I got picked up by Brooklyn. He thought it was a great opportunity for me.’’

It might be. Free agent Shaun Livingston reportedly has agreed to terms with the Golden State Warriors. Marquis Teague has struggled in this summer league. Jorge Gutierrez suffered bruised ribs and is hoping to play again this week.

Brown has an opportunity to make an NBA name for himself. In college he was known as the player that got ejected from a game for dunking.

On Jan. 26, 2012 against then No. 2-ranked Missouri, Brown twice threw down monster dunks. He was called for technical fouls after both slams for glaring at the hapless defender.

“I don’t think it was a correct call,’’ Brown said with a grin. “I hear it all the time, even the players around me now at the summer league, they’re always like, ‘Hey you got ejected. How did it feel?’’’

The Cowboys went on to win that game so it didn’t feel too bad. Brown’s had enough pain in his life.