While watching the Woodcreek basketball team in the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational, junior big man Jordan Brown is a little tough to miss. While the rest of his teammates sprint, jump and lunge around the basketball court in black, white and gray sneakers, Brown fashions a flashy yellow and red pair that makes him pop.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that the junior is 6-foot-11, rated as the top center in the country by ESPN and the fifth-overall recruit in the Class of 2018. He’s an obvious physical specimen and a new face looking forward to wowing the crowds at the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational this week.
Brown’s talents have taken him around California, the country and the globe, but he said this particular tournament has him more excited than normal this December.
“We flew in today,” he said. “We never came for this tough competition before. It’s our first time here, and we’re excited to see what the real world of basketball is and see what we have to beat.”
READ MORE: Tuesday’s results, Wednesday’s schedule
The Timberwolves arrived in the Coachella Valley with an unblemished 10-0 record and added another with a 54-47 win over Cantwell-Sacred Heart in the first round of the Open Division Tuesday evening, setting themselves up for a meeting with the highly-touted, electric, fast-passed offense of Chino Hills, the defending champions.
With the Huskies’ dunks and half-court swishes making their rounds on SportsCenter and nearly every high school blog site imaginable, Brown still isn’t deterred. He’s seen much tougher opponents and played in higher-stakes games.
“No one is scared,” he said. “We’re just excited, very much. We’re going to come out and prove people wrong.”
Chino Hills boasts just one player within four inches of Brown’s height, giving Woodcreek an initial size advantage, but the Huskies play with speed no team’s been able to match over the last two seasons.
Luckily, Woodcreek’s post player has wheels of his own. Running up and down the court, Brown has the vision and dribbling skills of a guard, just an abnormally tall one. Miss a shot on offense, and you’re almost never going to grab a rebound over him. He had 17 in Tuesday’s win.
Against Cantwell, he proved multiple times he can drive coast-to-coast and finish at the hoop.
Playing as a more traditional post-player, Brown can catch the ball on the baseline and post you up or drive through defenders and finish with finesse. At the free throw line, he takes two sizable players to block him out.
Brown comes to Rancho Mirage seasoned, with two summers of international basketball representing USA on the U16 and U17 national teams, who both came home with gold medals in the World Championships the past two summers with Brown on the roster.
As a freshman, Brown was a member of the Woodcreek squad who finished just two wins short of a Division 1 California state title. That title run gave him a taste of pressure on the big stage, and after missing out on a trip there last year, he’s got a fire ignited inside to not only make it back, but be the leadership catalyst to take the Timberwolves there.
Being the top center in the country has come with lots of pressure, plenty of expectations. With no one ahead and everyone nipping at his heels, Brown said he always feels like he’s got to be on his best to keep his rep up.
Wednesday night will be the perfect test.
“I just know people are looking at me,” he said. “I have a big target on my back, and I just have to keep grinding so I can surpass anyone people think is ahead of me and lap the guys trying to get me.”
About Jordan Brown
Year: Class of 2018
Rankings: No. 5 overall recruit in junior class nationally (ESPN), nation’s top center, California’s top recruit
Colleges interested: Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Arizona, St. John’s, Kansas, Nevada
When he plays next: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Rancho Mirage in the main gym