Living their dream: Second Brown commits to Missouri

Missouri’s 2021 recruiting class is beginning to come together, and for Kaleb Brown, it will be a family affair.

Kaleb Brown officially committed to play basketball at the University of Missouri on Monday, but he made his mind up long before then.

It was late at night in early August when Brown entered his parents’ room and told them MU was the school for him. Turning down offers from programs such as Minnesota, West Virginia and Mercer, the 17-year-old joined Anton Brookshire as the second commit in the Tigers’ 2021 class.

After a long process, Brown stuck it out with what he said was the Power Five school that was there from day one. The 6’6 point guard out of Huntsville, Ala. cited head coach Cuonzo Martin, his familiarity with the program, the promise of playing time and his brother already being there as some of the primary factors in his decision.

“It was a pretty obvious decision, but I still wanted to make sure that it was the right decision,” Brown said.

Coming to a decision

Brown left Lee High School on Monday to a phone blown up with congratulatory messages. While the sheer amount of texts and notifications rendered his phone useless, one message caught his eye. It came from MU junior guard Xavier Pinson, a player that he enjoys watching. It was something little, but it helped enforce the feeling that he made the correct choice.

While the pros far outweighed the cons, the decision to come to Columbia wasn’t always straightforward. When his brother, Kobe, committed to the Tigers in 2019, the signing was met with skepticism from fans and media alike. The initial pushback that his brother faced did enter his mind, but at the end of the day, Brown says that it’s just a part of basketball.

“He started to really sit down, write things down and realize that the common-sense move for him would be to go to Missouri because he liked everything about it,” Greg Brown, Kaleb’s high school coach and father, said. “He didn’t have to guess if he was being lied to, he didn’t have to worry about seeing the campus because he’s already seen the campus. There were so many factors at play to make a decision that made sense.”

Brown posted a video of his top six schools to Twitter on Aug. 18, but by then he knew that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he would commit to MU. Martin and assistant coach Chris Hollender had been recruiting him for years, even after his brother initially committed to play at Texas A&M. Brown said he appreciated MU’s loyalty and that there was a comfort level that came from familiarity with the program and campus.

Not wanting to sway him in any way, Kobe Brown tried to avoid talking to his brother when it came to his recruitment. However, there were times that he reached out to their parents and expressed his suspicions that Brown was leaning toward MU.

Shortly before commiting, Kaleb finally broke the news to his brother.

”I told him after the top six video that I was going to Mizzou,” Brown said. “He was super excited, probably more excited than I was.”

Working toward the moment

Like many, Brown’s mind started to wander when he was kept off the court during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. He talked about his future with trainer Kelly McCarty earlier this month, asking his mentor whether he believed that he truly was a Power Five point guard.

“He is very hard on himself, and he started talking about the things that he was not,” McCarty said. “I said, ‘Kaleb, what you are is a 6’5 point guard, a mismatch nightmare. You think the game at a high level. You are one of the best passers that I have ever trained.’ I started laying out to him what he could bring to a Power Five program that would qualify him to be on that level and feel comfortable on that level.”

Shortly after that conversation, McCarty noticed Brown was training with a different purpose. He would work out at his school in the mornings, pop into the training facility for a couple of hours in the afternoon to get shots up and pick McCarty’s brain and then return after dinner where he would continue to work on his game.

"[McCarty] is always honest with me,” Brown said. “He’ll tell me if I was being lazy or had a terrible game, so I knew he’d be honest with me about what I can do and what I can’t. It was definitely a confidence boost because he knows my skill set pretty well.”

As his high school coach and father, Greg Brown witnessed his sons develop, both on and off the court. While he couldn’t recall many on-court moments, Greg Brown said what he will remember is their leadership and how much they care for their teammates.

“When they were being recruited hard, they would ask me –– each one of them –– ‘Dad, what can I do to help my teammates get recruited? Do I just get them the ball; what should I do, how should I do that?’” Greg Brown said.

Over the past few months, both Kobe and Kaleb Brown have been training together multiple times a week. McCarty –– who trained Kobe since he was a sixth grader and Brown even longer –– said that after a season in Martin’s system with higher-level players, he noticed Kobe now both teaches and encourages his younger brother. And, like any sibling relationship, there’s always natural competitiveness on the court.

“After training sessions, there’s always, ‘Coach, who’s the better passer? Who can shoot better?’ Or Kobe’s saying, ‘The step-back is my move, you cannot make that shot,’” McCarty said. “They’re always, always competing and it’s fun to see.”

Next stop: Columbia

Brown stood at just 5 feet, 9 inches in his freshman year of high school. At just 17 years old, Kaleb will be a young senior, but like any teen, he began to grow during high school. He shot up to 6 feet, then 6-foot-3-inch and is now listed at 6 feet, 6 inches.

Despite his rapid change in height, Brown is still at his best with the ball in his hands. Kelly called him a “student of the game,” and his father said that he likes to study players such as Steve Nash.

Greg Brown describes his son as a playmaker with good handles who prefers to set teammates up. In 2019, Brown finished with six triple-doubles and almost contributed 18 assists in a single game.

Due to Brown’s growth spurt, Kelly was able to drill him as an athletic point guards rather than just a pass-first guards. Now, instead of finishing below the rim, many drills end in dunks. The pair train footwork and body control in the post, and with his increased athleticism, Brown can use his length and closing speed to become an even greater hounding one-on-one defender.

With his commitment out of the way, Kaleb now has his senior year at Lee High School to continue to work on his game and prepare his body for the steep jump from Alabama 6A basketball to Southeastern Conference competition. While he admits he still has plenty to improve on, for now, the Brown family are living their dream. In 2021, Missouri fans could very well see Kaleb and Kobe connect on a lob in transition.

Just like old times.

Edited by Jack Soble |

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