How High Point’s John Brown went from JV QB to NBA prospect in five years

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John Brown shouldn’t be playing basketball at High Point.

I’m not saying that to be mean, and I’m not trying to assassinate his character. By all accounts, Brown is a dedicated, hardworking student-athlete with a fun-loving personality whose biggest flaw, depending on where you’re from, is either his willingness to dress up like Grand-Ma-Ma or his affinity for Florida Gators football. He’s bar-none one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done.

But he’s also a hyper-athletic, 6-foot-8 combo forward with a motor that doesn’t stop running and a feel for the game that goes beyond his five years of organized basketball. Players like that belong in the ACC, not the Big South.

I know it. High Point head coach Scott Cherry knows it. Deep down, Brown probably knows it, too, which is what makes the tale of a JV quarterback becoming the Big South Player of the Year so interesting.

As a sophomore in high school, Brown wasn’t a basketball star. He wasn’t even a basketball player, focusing all his energy on calling plays for his high school’s JV football team with his sights set on one day playing in “The Swamp.” That summer, however, Brown not only transferred schools, he also grew to 6-foot-6, which created a bit of a problem. He was too tall to be a quarterback, but seeing as he struggled to keep his weight above 160 pounds, he was too skinny to do much else.

“I wasn’t going to do anything that year. I was basically just going to give up on everything,” Brown told NBCSports.com in a phone interview earlier this month, and it would have stayed that way if his new high school’s hoops coach hadn’t happened by during a pick-up game. “I was just playing and the coach saw me playing in the gym. He told me to come in for practice and try out. I was already athletic, because I played football, but I gave him what he asked for and all of a sudden I just started playing varsity, starting and everything.”

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As a junior, the first time in Brown’s life that he had played organized basketball, he generated enough buzz that people in northern Florida started to notice. He played AAU ball that summer, which is where Cherry saw him play the first time, before transferring to Arlington Country Day, one of the best high school basketball programs in the country, for his senior year of high school.

And it was during that one season at Arlington Country Day where Cherry realized just how good this kid could be. Cherry was there to watch one of High Point’s most important recruits, a 6-foot-8 bruiser named Travis Elliot that would eventually enroll with the Panthers before transferring out of the program. But it didn’t hurt that they would get a second look at a kid that impressed him during the summer, and as Cherry tells it, “[Brown] was really good in that game, too.”

Brown, however, has a different take on his performance: “I killed him, and then they started recruiting me.”

The truth is probably lost in the annals of time, but regardless of how the game actually played out, Cherry and his staff did their due diligence and got some good news. “All of a sudden word kind of filtered down that he was still available,” Cherry said, “and that there was a possibility of us getting involved with him.”

The reason for that? Brown’s academics were a mess.

The NCAA requires that a certain number of core courses be taken in high school in order to be eligible at the collegiate level. Brown didn’t realize he had a real shot to be a scholarship athlete for the first half of his high school career, and as a result “was put in classes that would only point him towards a trade school or junior college and was told differently,” Cherry said. The other problem was that the NCAA stop accepting credits from Arlington Country Day, meaning that the work that Brown did to try to make up for the start of his high school career wouldn’t count.

So he spent a year prepping at Oldsmar Christian School (Fl.), but even that wasn’t enough to be ruled a qualifier by the NCAA.

Brown was allowed to be on scholarship his first year at High Point, but he wasn’t even allowed to practice with the team, let alone play in games.

And it was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

“Don’t laugh at me, but I came here at 160,” Brown said. “Now I’m 205, so I came a long way. I was kind of glad that I had to sit out because I gained a little weight, so I won’t get completely pushed around.” It also gave Brown a chance to try and expand his game, which to this point in his career was more or less limited to his natural athleticism. “I had to learn how to dribble,” he said. “You can run, you can jump, you can catch, you can do all of that. You don’t know how to dribble? You might as well give it up.”

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Now, the x-factor here was that High Point couldn’t actually work with Brown through all of this. They couldn’t bring him into practice and he couldn’t join the team in the weight room. They were really quite limited on what they would be able to do to help him improve. The only outside influence on Brown was the distractions that every freshman faces in college. He was scheduled to be a part of the team the following year, but as a freshman, Brown was nothing more than a regular college kid that just happened to be 6-foot-8.

“You’ve got so many distractions here at college,” Brown said. “Because my teammates, they were always practicing. I didn’t have nobody coming in the gym with me. It was just me and my girlfriend, she would come and rebound for me.”

It was humbling, Brown said, just the wake-up call he needed.

“It let me know that the game can get taken away from you in the blink of an eye, so that’s why I try to go hard every practice, every workout, every day.”

Brown hasn’t slowed down since.

All you need to do is to talk to his coach to realize that. In our 20 minute conversation, Cherry repeatedly drove the point home that the most important skill that Brown has is his motor and his work ethic. It never stops. He goes all out every second that he is on the court, and that is very much a skill, one that’s as tough to develop as a consistent three-point stroke or a dangerous low-post game.

And it’s that level of effort, Cherry believes, that will one day get Brown into the NBA.

“What this guy offers is that he’s going to be a professional,” Cherry said. “He’s going to come to work every single day, that’s going to have the same attitude and work ethic every single day, that’s never going to change. He’s going to outplay guys higher than him on the draft board because he has zero and 100, there is no in between.”

“Coaches love effort,” Brown said. “That’s one thing I’ve found out in my years of playing, so I just give them what they love.”

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.