Javonte Brown had it all figured out when he was coming out of high school.
The 7-foot-1, five-star Canadian basketball recruit out of Thornlea Secondary School had his choices narrowed down to Texas A&M, Kansas, and UConn. It was “tit for tat,” he said, one day A&M would come north to watch him play and the next day UConn would be there trying to lure him to join the Huskies.
Ultimately his decision came down to two things. For one, he had developed a great relationship with UConn assistant coach Kenya Hunter who was all over Brown during his high school days. Then there was the other factor. Brown was smart, he scoured over the rosters of each team trying to figure out which program would be the best for his development. At UConn, the Huskies had a group of upperclassmen centres he figured he could spend his freshmen year learning from before eventually getting playing time as a sophomore.
“Going in there was no expectation for Javonte in regards to him playing 20-30 minutes per game,” Brown’s AAU coach Shane James said. “He left high school early, we knew because of COVID that him going to university and playing in a university Division I program, having access to the weight room, the training, the practices, competing against guys who are three, four years older than him would make sense.”
Then the situation changed.
First Hunter took a job at Indiana. Before Brown ever got to play a game for the Huskies, the coach who worked so hard to recruit him to UConn was gone.
“It was pretty disappointing,” Brown said.
The decision was understandable, both Brown and James said. There are no hard feelings between Brown and Hunter, but that didn’t make the loss any easier.
“When these things happen it seems like it’s small but they are big issues because these are young kids and they trust you, they put trust in you, they grow a relationship with you, and then that gets taken away, it becomes different,” James said. “He was a little emotional about it when he heard Kenya was leaving.”
Then things got worse for Brown. All that planning he had done to map out his college career was washed down the drain when the NCAA granted seniors an extra year of eligibility. Instead of getting playing time as a sophomore, Brown was once again stuck on the bench.
“For the seniors and stuff like that, it’s really good because they lost last year to COVID and everything and they get a chance to showcase themselves the next year again. But for the younger players and stuff, I really believe it hurts them, especially me,” Brown said. “Most guys go into a program knowing the seniors are going to leave so there’s a spot for me, so it really hurts players. I don’t want to say it hurt me, but it created a disadvantage.”
Without Hunter in his corner vouching for him and no clear path to playing time, Brown decided to enter the transfer portal. It wasn’t long before he landed on his other top choice coming out of high school, the Texas A&M Aggies.
“I choose Texas A&M because of the connection we made from my recruiting,” he said. “I believe I will get the best development there.”
For all the Canadian recruiting Alabama is doing down South, Texas A&M might still hold the Canadian recruiting crown. Thanks to Canadian assistant coach Jamie McNeilly the Aggies are expected to have a roster with four Canadians next season including Scarborough’s Emanuel Miller, Cashius McNeilly, a former high school teammate of Brown’s, and Torontonian Jevonnie Scott, who is transferring in from South Plains College.
Surrounded by fellow countrymen and with an assistant coach he’s well acquainted with, Brown should finally be in a spot to flourish. It helps that the Aggies could use a big man like Brown.
“Javonte Brown was probably the best offensive big in Canada last season and is one of the best skilled big, true bigs that we’ve seen in a while,” said Canadian basketball scout Wesley Brown who has Brown ranked as a five-star prospect. “He became a star really last year offensively in the OSBA. He always had the size and he was pretty mobile, but he really became an offensive beast last year, scoring through double teams, strong with the ball, skilled, developed his shot, has a pretty good jump shot.”
Now with his feet finally set in College Station, Brown can finally begin to make good on all his God-given talent