Of every 10,000 male high school basketball players in the United States, about three have a career in the NBA. Three players. 0.03 percent.
Fourth Form guard Jameel Brown wants to join the 0.03 percent.
Growing up, Brown spent his time immersed in basketball. For him, it was not just a game: it was his life.
“I started playing when I was five,” Brown said. “My cousins, uncles, and my brother all started before me, and I used to watch them play when I was young. Hakeem Baxter — my cousin — went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I remember watching him play in the March Madness tournament.”
Brown’s love for basketball blossomed from these experiences. As his own game developed, he was unchallenged by children his own age and began to play with older kids.
“When I was ten, I was playing with like thirteen-year-olds,” Brown said. “They used to rough me up and stuff like that. It kind of was a challenge then, but I feel like it eventually helped me for the better.”
Now, Brown plays for Team Final Nike — an elite Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team from Philly — outside of school. Furthermore, he competes for Team USA, an experience he has thoroughly enjoyed.
“Just going out to Colorado Springs and competing against all the top players in the country was great. I was taking in what they were teaching me. It was really an honor because I used to watch some of my favorite players like Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish go to those types of camps, and it was an honor just to be there,” Brown said.
Within the school team, Brown’s role is increasing, but he remains humble.
Sixth Form Shooting guard Scott Burke said, “He’s a great guy — one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He always looks for the pass first, and he’s one of the best players on the team.”
Brown’s coaches believe he brings more than just talent to the team. Varsity Head Coach Bernie Rogers has worked with Brown for a while now, witnessing his growth firsthand.
“He gets better every day because he works hard, practices hard, and he’s very coachable,” Coach Rogers said. “Jameel makes guys around him better; he plays a team game and improves his teammates’ games by his unselfish play. I also think he’s just a humble person by nature, which is very impressive given his background.”
As a sophomore, Brown already has received offers from the University of Pennsylvania, Iona College, Saint Peter’s University, and Temple University. While he hopes to play in the NBA eventually, Brown remains grounded, not looking too far ahead.
“[Going to the NBA] has always been my goal,” Brown said, “but I just try to take it step by step. I gotta get through high school first, then get through college, then try to go to the NBA. Right now, I’m just taking it step by step, day by day.”
Assistant coach Mr. Jeremy Hart teachers Brown right now in Modern World History while simultaneously coaching him on the court.
“I’ve been really impressed with Jameel as a young man, as a student, and as a player,” Mr. Hart said. “He’s always been incredibly humble about how talented he is, even when his classmates are praising him. He works really hard in basketball, and he’s been able to translate that into the classroom.”
Mr. Hart agrees with Brown’s mindset regarding the NBA.
“I think it’s a great goal . . . I think the level of talent in the NBA is exponential compared to high school,” Mr. Hart said. “Jameel is incredibly talented, he’s on a great trajectory, he’s doing all the right things . . . I think he’s got the potential to [go to the NBA]. His work ethic and asking for help will put him in a position to be competitive for it. Looking at the statistics for any sport, going from high school to the professionals is pretty slim, but then: if you shoot for the sun and land on the moon, that’s pretty good.”
Coach Rogers has a similar outlook on Brown’s goals. “It’s always a hard question at this age,” Rogers said, “but he’s certainly got endless potential.”
Although praise seems to follow Brown everywhere, he manages to remain composed. When taking a big shot, he translates this coolness to the court.
“Jameel is one of those super down-to-earth guys,” Burke said. “Everyone loves him because he always does the right thing, and he doesn’t let any of the noise get to his head. He just plays and does his thing.”
“I just try to stay relaxed. No pressure,” Brown said. “I’m just taking it play-by-play and basically going out there and having fun.”