Back in 2015, future NBA star Jaylen Brown was a heavily recruited forward out of Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. He checked in at around 200 pounds and stood 6'7" tall. He led his team to a 30-3 record in his senior year while averaging 28 points and 12 rebounds a game. He piled up the accolades as his high school career wound down (he was named a McDonald's All-American), and as you'd expect, all of the collegiate heavy hitters had their eyes on him and ESPN rated him a five-star prospect. When the dust settled, it was decided that future Boston Celtic Jaylen Brown's college days would be spent at the University of California, Berkeley from the Pac-12. The Atlanta-based prodigy was heading west.
From the Golden Bears to the TD Garden
Kentucky and UCLA (among many others) were also under heavy consideration for Brown, but he opted to head to the Cal Golden Bears in a move that surprised many across the college basketball landscape. Still - it was essentially a one-year promise thanks to the NBA's "one and done" rule, which is likely to be abandoned in the very near future. He was projected to be a top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft - and short of crashing and burning completely during that single season stay in the NCAA, there would be little doubt he'd be one of the first handful of names called during the first round on Draft night. So - how did his pit stop in Berkeley turn out? Pretty much as expected - for the most part. Where did Celtics' Jaylen Brown acquire his skills?
Over the course of the regular season, Jaylen Marselles Brown averaged 14.6 points per game while adding two assists per game and pulling down 5.4 rebounds. His performance earned him the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year as well as first-team All-Pac-12 honors. The Golden Bears would finish with a No. 23 ranking in the final AP Poll, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed. It was his (and the team's) tournament performance, however, that had most people talking.
In their opening round matchup, Cal faced Hawaii in the South Bracket, which played out in Louisville, Kentucky over St. Patrick's Day weekend in 2016. In short - it was not a career-high night for any California basketball player. He ended up having one of (if not the) worst games of his short-lived collegiate career on the biggest stage in NCAA Men's Basketball. The stat line was ugly: four points on 1 of 6 shooting. He also turned the ball over seven times and managed to foul out in only 17 minutes. Yikes. The Golden Bears would go on to lose the game 77-66, ending Jaylen Brown's college basketball career.
Despite the horrid "last impression" he left, the disappointing performance didn't significantly impact his draft stock. He'd been on the radar of pro scouts for so long, that his body of work throughout high school and his regular season at Cal didn't get overshadowed by that single game. If anything, it helped illuminate the aspects of his game that still need improving. His overall versatility and sheer athleticism worked to his advantage. The small forward could occupy multiple positions on the floor, depending on how he developed in the NBA.
When NBA Draft Day arrived on June 23rd, Jaylen Brown (who you can follow on his socials media with his @fchwpo accounts) didn't have to wait long to hear Commissioner Adam Silver announce his name. The Boston Celtics took Brown with the 3rd overall pick in the first round, ahead of other future NBA players like Jamal Murray (a pick Denver acquired in their Carmelo Anthony deal with the New York Knicks) and Pacers shooting guard Buddy Hield. He'd feature in a few summer league games before signing with the Celtics in late July. He debuted for the Celtics in the season opener against the Brooklyn Nets and made his first start a few days later against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would be an integral piece throughout the year, helping the Celtics finish first in the standings in the Eastern Conference.
As his career has progressed, so has his game. Whether it's his success at the free throw line or his prowess for steals, but Brown is becoming a big problem for opposing teams. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team and has since been named an NBA All-Star twice. His most recent appearance in the All-Star Game came this year when he played for "Team LeBron" in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Celtics are battling the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and hoping that Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and company can help Boston get through the playoffs and all the way back to the NBA Finals. But first, after taking down the Atlanta Hawks, they'll have to get through the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, if the then want to face the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, who whichever team comes out of the Western Conference.
After that, the Celtics need to extend Brown beyond his four-year deal. Seriously, Brad Stephens, you need to extend Jaylen Brown yesterday.
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