WASHINGTON, D.C. — You can’t blame Jaylen Brown for being tired, not after the schedule that he’s had the last couple of months.
After traversing the country with his Adidas-affiliated Game Elite AAU program during the spring, Brown hopped on a plane to Treviso, Italy, where he took part in the Adidas Eurocamp in early June. The 6-foot-7, five-star wing stood out despite being quite a bit younger than a number of the players in attendance, but he caught a flight from the camp straight to Team USA’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, where he barely had a chance to unpack his bags before settling in for what turned into a two-week stay.
Brown not only made the U18 national team, he was one of the top performers during the American run to a gold medal, a tournament ended on June 24th. By June 27th, Brown was in DC for the three-day Kevin Durant Skills Academy.
I’m tired just thinking about it.
But, according to Brown, the fact that this wild couple of months drained him is evidence that … there’s a flaw in his game?
“I’ve got to get to an extreme level of conditioning so that I can play at a high level for a long period of time,” Brown told NBCSports.com at the Durant camp last week. “I need to play harder. I need to be able to play at a ten the whole time. There can’t be a dropoff, which is why I need that extreme level of conditioning. The elevation in Colorado messed with a lot of us, but you’ve got to get to that point to be the player that you want to be.”
It’s not the first time that Brown learned the hard way that he’s got to make an improvement to his body to get better. He’s a top three recruit in the Class of 2015, but during the summer after his sophomore year Brown played up a level, in U17 AAU tournaments. It didn’t take him long to realize that getting stronger was going to be a priority for him moving forward.
And, according to Brown, that’s the biggest reason that he’s become one of the hottest names in the Class of 2015.
“I feel like the big difference was me getting into the weight room,” Brown said. “I feel like I got stronger, and [now I’m] able to get all of my moves off, to dominate the game at my age group.”
“People last year were just as big and just as strong as I was, which made it difficult to try and score and made me find different ways to score, be more creative and stuff like that.”
That process isn’t over yet, however.
The player that Brown is most-commonly compared to is incoming Arizona-freshman Stanley Johnson. Both are 6-foot-7 power wings that can play anywhere on the court, from the point to the post. The difference, according to an NBA scout that was in attendance at the Durant camp, is lower body strength.
One of the coolest parts of events like the Durant Skills Academy is that the NBA stars attend, work out with and compete against the best high schoolers and college players at their position in the country. Johnson was at the camp as well, and both players made a point of going at Durant every chance they got. And if you know anything about Durant, you know that he’s not the type to back down from a challenge.
Durant’s post game was exposed during the 2014 NBA Playoffs, and it was clear that he’s put in time in the gym trying to improve it as the majority of his touches at the camp came in the post against some guys that have NBA length and athleticism. Durant was able to score with his back to the basket against Brown, overpowering the youngster as he backed his way into the lane. Johnson, however, was immovable, forcing Durant into turnaround and fadeaway jumpers.
“It was a good grading scale,” Brown said of the camp, “to know how I am compared to the rest of the wings across the country.”
And as of now, Brown’s the best there is at the high school level. He can handle the ball, he can score with his back to the basket, he can beat defenders off the dribble and his perimeter stroke is much better than it was at this point last season. He’s got the size to be a good rebounder at the next level and the anticipation and physical tools to be a playmaker defensively.
“I feel like I could play 1-through-4, whatever a coach needs me to play,” Brown said. “I want to be versatile, I don’t want a coach to put any limitations on me. So I want to tighten up on everything by college, that’s my goal, to be able to play 1-through-4.”
As of now, Brown says that UCLA, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas are the six schools that are coming at him the hardest, but he’s also been vocal about the fact that he’s not a big fan of the recruiting process, telling NBCSports.com in May that he may end up committing to a school before the end of the summer.
“Sometimes you get tired of hearing the same stuff over and over again,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal last month. “Some of them are 40, 50 years old. I’m 17, so what do we really have to talk about for 20 minutes?”
And that’s not the only evidence that Brown’s recruitment might end up going differently than a lot of coaches are used to.
“I just have to know,” Brown said when asked how his decision-making process. “I have to wake up one morning and be like this is the school for me. I have to be OK with a school if the coach leaves for anything, I want to feel comfortable with the school. Some people choose a school for the wrong reasons, just about basketball. There’s a lot of things incorporated when it comes to that decision.”