When he first became interested in basketball, Greg Brown III had a suspicion the road to his desired destination was going to be a long and rocky one.
“I wasn’t very good — at all,” he said. “I think I probably was the worst player on the planet.”
That was five years ago. He since has climbed in the Planet Earth rankings, even if there really were such a thing.
Now, as a 15-year-old freshman at Vandegrift High School, Brown and his ultimate goal — playing in the NBA — still remain separated by a long and potentially pothole-filled path, but those around him believe the goal is an achievable one.
The son of former University of Texas football player Greg Brown II and the nephew of former Longhorns all-conference basketball player Roderick Anderson, who tutors him almost daily, Brown is developing into one of the top green-but-growing young players in the Austin area.
He recently recorded his first triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and a school-record 18 blocked shots in a one-point victory over Hutto. That doubled Brown’s previous high for blocks in a game — “but that was in AAU,” he said, “and I was playing against kids that, like, came up to my waist.”
Spreading 175 pounds over a lanky 6-foot-7 frame, Brown has been a bright spot for the Vipers (7-15), averaging 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks as Vandegrift makes its debut this season as a Class 6A program.
“You’re seeing it all start to pay off,” Vandegrift coach Clif Ellis said of Brown. “You’ve got a kid with that kind of skill and size and that kind of lineage. It’s one of those perfect storms.”
Added Greg Brown II, a two-time All-Big 12 honorable-mention defensive back who started 25 games for Texas from 1998-2000: “God has definitely touched him in a number of ways. From what I’ve seen, I kind of lick my chops wondering where he’ll be in another year or two.”
As the younger Brown’s reputation has begun to grow, college coaches from high-profile programs, including Texas, are coming around to scout him. Opposing players, not surprisingly, are not inclined to willingly let the youngster build his reputation at their expense.
It’s a baptism under fire, and Brown acknowledges he’s had to learn to adjust to it.
“Sometimes (opponents) try to do harmful stuff to me, but I just shake it off and laugh about it now,” he said. “I know I’m getting in their heads.”
Anderson, an all-conference point guard for the Longhorns in 1994-95, works with his nephew almost every day. Getting Brown to keep his emotions in check is one of his priorities, he said.
Ellis, a longtime assistant at Lake Travis and Bowie before he became the head coach at Vandegrift eight years ago, said Brown compares favorably to other area high school stars early in their careers who went on to notable college success. Brown, he added, is learning to keep his cool in the intensity of games.
“He’s trying to get used to the pressure of 6A ball, (of) being the guy, getting everybody’s best shot and getting beat up all the time,” Ellis said. “We’ve been working with him on that.”
The dynamic of the freshman Brown being “the guy” for the Vipers isn’t an issue, coaches and players agree. Brown has blended well with his older teammates, and he’s quick to give them credit for his successes.
“It’s all good,” he said. “They want to see me succeed, and I want to see them succeed just as much, probably more.”
Noted senior guard Ryan Boles: “The chemistry has been fine. He’s just one of us.”
Brown amuses his teammates, Boles added, because “he likes to dance, a lot. Even when there isn’t any music.”
Is he a good dancer?
“He’d probably say he is,” Boles said with a chuckle.
As the tallest Viper, Brown often plays near the basket despite his thin frame, but as he continues to improve his already impressive ball-handling and outside shooting, he sees himself eventually morphing into a small forward or a shooting guard.
Brown can be a three-point shooting threat. He drained a critical trey Tuesday night in the fourth quarter of a District 25-6A game at Vista Ridge, a contest the Vipers lost 62-59 in overtime.
Continuing to improve in the game he loves is Brown’s obsession. That doesn’t surprise Anderson.
“When he came to me initially, I asked him how far he wanted to go with this,” said the former Longhorn. “He said he wanted to be an NBA legend.
“He had no idea what he was saying at the time, but he’s coming to the realization that there’s a lot of stuff he has to go through to get to that level. We’ve really just started the process.”
And Brown is all in.
“It’s my whole life,” he said. “I wake up about basketball and go to sleep about basketball. Besides going to school and doing my homework, I just do basketball. Every day.”
Coming Friday, our boys basketball midseason report.