COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Jordan Brown is only 16 years old, but he’s a veteran member of USA Basketball U-17 team and one of the top-ranked recruits in the nation in the 2018 class.
At 6-foot-10 with plenty of raw athleticism, Brown already earns comparisons to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. There are big expectations awaiting him back home in Roseville, Calif., where he has twice led his Woodcreek High School team to the state championship game and averaged 26.7 points and 15 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore.
All of it can be a lot to live up to, which is why Brown is thankful for the steady influence of his parents, Dion and Yolanda Brown.
His father is retired from the Air Force and also played college basketball at Louisiana-Lafayette. Both of those experiences have put him in perfect position to teach his son the responsibility of wearing USA across the front of his jersey and how to deal with the stress of college recruiting and a future decision on where he will go to school.
“He’s been the biggest influence in my life as far as introducing me to basketball and pushing me to be the best and staying on me,” Brown said of his father. “He’s always staying on me making sure my future is the best it can be.”
Brown’s future is looking extremely bright. He earned one of 12 roster spots on the U-17 USA Basketball national team earlier this week and will travel to Spain later this month to play in the World Championships one year after helping the team win a gold medal in Argentina in his first experience in international competition.
He will have to select a college to attend at some point in the next two years and figures to have his pick considering he is on the honor roll in high school while also being ranked among the top-10 players of the 2018 class.
Those rankings and expectations don’t seem to phase him much. He trusts in the work he is putting in, believing it will get him where he wants to go in the sport and away from it.
“You know that everything you get, you’re going to have to work hard for it,” Brown said.
He suddenly finds himself in more of a leadership role as one of six returning members of the team, but that’s a job he’s well-prepared to handle thanks, once again, to how he has been raised.
While he’s a veteran of this process and of the team, Brown is learning plenty and admits he has a lot of room to improve as a player. He came to the USA Basketball training camp focused on playing better defense, knocking down shots when opportunities presented themselves and becoming a better rebounder.
“I guess some people say it’s stressful for them because they’re used to having the ball in their hand and used to being able to do whatever they want,” Brown said of playing on a team of fellow prep stars. “But out here it’s never going to work because everyone is kind of used to that and everyone is going to play defense and make sure they don’t get scored on.”
U-17 head coach Don Showalter said Brown is blossoming as a player and has matured quite a bit from where he was a year ago at this time. Brown averaged 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in five games last summer playing for the U-16 team in the FIBA Americas championships in Argentina.
“He’s much more physical,” Showalter said.
“Last year I thought he was a little soft around the basket. He’s got a nice repertoire of shots. He’s got a nice little jump hook and he’s got a 15-foot jump shot. He has expanded his game. He’s much more physical defensively. So he’s going to give us some length around the basket. He didn’t really provide that last year for us and at 6-10, he’s quick enough that he can play some pressure defense with us.”
Brown said he still finds himself reverting to old habits at times trying to do too much, and he gets mad at himself for not making better decisions on the court. But he is getting more and more comfortable with each practice in an environment where he is competing against the best.
“I’m learning that you always have to come out here and play and you’re not going to come out here and dominate,” Brown said. “You’re going to have to find your role and do what you need to do.”