Fannie Brown cited "a good fit" with Missouri's system and Tigers coach Frank Haith while declining to elaborate on her son's departure from Oregon.
"I'll just say it was a tough decision to leave when you know these young men will be raked over the coals when people don't have any idea what's going on," she said.
"I will say it up front, I don't want him to leave," Dana Altman said. "The door is still open."
Brown was averaging 6.0 points as a starter in both games, was shooting just 27 percent and led the Ducks with 11 turnovers. He began his high school career at Salesian, then transferred to Findlay Prep (Nev.) for his senior season. But he left Findlay at midyear and completed his career at Oakland High.
included newspaper write-ups in multiple states and vitriolic online message board gossip, are emblematic of the changing culture. "I think all this stuff, it's too much," says Jabari's father, David Brown, who grew up in San Francisco and played at Morehouse College. "When I was coming up, there just wasn't this kind of attention. There just wasn't. It's just so different, and I think it's too much for these kids."
Jabari has stood out in basketball since grammar school. Tall and strong for a guard, he's equally capable of throwing down vicious tomahawk dunks, taking defenders off the dribble, or stroking deep three pointers. Moreover, he plays with a cerebral understanding of angles on the court and of how plays and situations will develop that's unusual for a player of his age and talent. It's a precocious package of size, skill, and athletic ability; Brown says he was "really excited" to receive his first recruiting letter, from the University of Arizona, before he had even entered high school.
As a middle schooler, Jabari was recruited to play for the Drew Gooden Soldiers, the Bay Area's highest-profile travel team in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). One of the premier travel teams in the nation, the Soldiers have produced a disproportionate number of NBA players, including LeBron James, arguably the world's best basketball player and one of its most marketable celebrities. The Soldiers also have sent more than a hundred kids to college programs.
Even for Brown, a blue-chip prospect coming off a stellar season, the move to the controversial Findlay was a big jump, both on and off the court. During the 2008-2009 season, while Jabari Brown was leading Salesian to its state championship, Findlay played in eight different states and logged some 30,000 air miles. Findlay Prep was founded and is financed by Cliff Findlay, a Las Vegas automobile tycoon and University of Nevada-Las Vegas athletics booster who started the team as a vanity project of sorts in memory of his late parents. Lacking an actual campus of their own, Brown and his teammates attended class at the nearby Henderson International School, where Cliff Findlay and his cohorts paid each player's $17,000 tuition. While his mother, father, and younger brother remained back home in Oakland, Brown lived with his teammates and an assistant coach in a five-bedroom house outfitted with wireless Internet, cable televisions, and two fully stocked refrigerators. The house, player tuitions, coaches, and nationwide schedule comprise an operation with annual costs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, a budget only partially offset by a Nike sponsorship.
For a while, Jabari seemed to be doing well at Findlay. He continued to succeed in the classroom, and, as the Pilots began the 2009-2010 season ranked first in the nation, Brown averaged 16.8 points per game, good for second on the star-studded team. But the pressure was intense and midway through the season things began to deteriorate. The death of a cousin and close friend — in addition to an ailing terminally ill grandmother — hit Brown especially hard living away from his family. Meanwhile, on the court, Brown and his coaches disagreed over his commitment to defense and hustle and Brown saw his playing time abruptly decrease. Brown felt like he was ramping up his effort level as Peck and the other coaches requested but they didn't find it satisfactory, even though Peck said he still regrets Brown's departure. Brown says he approached the coaches multiple times to find a solution, but to no avail. "You wonder why you don't play!" Peck yelled at Brown in a timeout during one game, which was caught in an online documentary that chronicled the team's season. Brown raised his eyebrows and palms apologetically and opened his mouth to speak. "Don't give me excuses!" Peck screamed, and pointed Brown toward the bench. Just after the new year, Brown packed his bags and left Findlay. He enrolled at Oakland High, his local public school where his younger brother Jamil Brown plays basketball.
Jabari reflected on his time at Findlay. "It was a good experience," he said grudgingly. "I think it opened my eyes to a lot of things. Off the court it helped me not being with my parents, not being as dependent. And then you kind of see that the higher up it is, the more it's a business. At the top it's kind of cutthroat. There's a sense of team but then, at the same time, it's kind of like, 'I gotta get mine, I gotta do me.' It's kind of like you want to be unselfish, but then at the same time you have to have a little bit of selfishness to be able to make it at that level."
Asked if moving away on his own at sixteen was difficult, Jabari adjusted himself in his chair and struggled to think of what to say. "I always knew I wanted to be back at home, but I had to do it to become better as a player. But when things started to go south, it was like I really wanted to be at home anyway so if things aren't going well then I might as well go back to where people care about me and where I can be with my family again."
Anonymous posters on online message boards denigrated Brown's character and questioned his family's motives and values. Meanwhile, the heckling at games became more and more cruel and the rumor-mongering in basketball circles grew — that Brown was selfish, lazy, and egotistical, or not good enough to hack it at Findlay, or that his recent spate transfers epitomized everything wrong with high school sports.
David Brown agrees. "It's a weird phenomenon because some people seem like they're on those message boards all day long," he said. "All the character assassination that goes along with him coming back home, that's the piece that really angers me." Nonetheless, the father added later, the negative attention "doesn't make me regret who he is."
Of course, simply ignoring what happens online would be one option, but Jabari's mother points out that's harder in practice than in theory in the Internet age. "Kids have the world at their fingertips when we didn't," Fannie said. "Then you got people blowing up your text messages and if you didn't see it somebody else did, and it'll get back to you some way."Sitting on the family's living room couch, David Brown describes the effect the past year has had on his son. "He's much more cynical now than he has been in the past."
Edited by FIJItiger at 10:47:30 on 04/30/12