Coming from an athletic family where basketball and football blood runs deep, guard Avery Brown is looking to raise the barometer even further as he continues working to make his NBA dream a reality. After a productive three seasons at Northfield Mount Hermon (MA), the four-star product held multiple offers and interest from a long list of college programs before ultimately committing to Columbia.
With a strong build and excellent positional size at the guard spot, Brown thrives at scoring the ball from multiple levels, elevating his teammates as a floor general and locking down opponents on defense. His fearless approach combined with the hunger to continue proving himself as a future NBA prospect will also help shape the culture at Columbia as they look to compete in the Ivy League next season.
In our latest rendition of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Brown discussed his up and down recruitment, the decision to join Columbia, his basketball journey, his off-court interests, and more.
Pro Insight’s Tyler Glazier spoke with the newest Lion.
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Avery Brown: My name is Avery Brown and I’m a class of 2022 PG. I’m 6’4” and go to school up in Massachusetts at Northfield Mount Hermon and have been here the past three years. I did my freshman year at Fairfield Prep back in Connecticut where I’m from. I played AAU with the PSA Cardinals for the past couple years on the Nike EYBL Circuit and before that I played with the New York Gauchos. I’d been playing with them since the second grade until my freshman year of high school so I was down in New York City a lot playing and competing with a lot of dudes. I made a lot of relationships down there, my teammate Kyle Cuffe won a national championship at Kansas. He was redshirting, but he was my teammate with the Gauchos. Other former teammates of mine Malachi Smith and Koby Brea are both at Dayton. I played with a lot of high level dudes during my time with the New York Gauchos, so that’s really my basketball background growing up. I played varsity basketball as an eighth grader, I went to a prep school. I played varsity at a pretty young age. That’s about it growing up.
PI: How did you get your start in basketball?
AB: I’ve been playing basketball since I was a little kid. It’s embedded in my family — my big brother played, as well as my parents. They didn’t really take it to the levels I’m taking it to, but my family loves the game of basketball. It’s been a family thing and I’m taking it to new heights. I’m breaking barriers in my family and it’s most definitely been an exciting journey. I’ve been taking it seriously my whole life and a lot of sacrifices have been put in — my parents have made a lot of sacrifices for me to be here.
PI: Any family members play collegiate or pro sports?
AB: Not basketball, no one really played in college. My cousin played overseas and had a good career. I have a couple cousins that play in the NFL and my uncle Larry Johnson is the assistant coach for the Ohio State Football team. In terms of college and pros, I had a cousin play running back [for the Kansas City Chiefs], he’s named Larry Johnson, as well.
PI: Did you play football as well?
AB: Nah, I didn’t. My mom was really skeptical about it. I really just played in the backyard just having fun, but my mom was really skeptical about me getting hit. I’d always watch it from afar and be like “dang I wish I could play.”
PI: Describe your game — what would you say are some of your greatest strengths?
AB: I’ve got great size at the point guard position; I have a great IQ and feel for the game; I get to my spots; I’m really good in the open court and transition, attacking downhill; I’m great in pick-and-roll and trying to facilitate the ball; I make open shots, etc. Honestly I think I’m a competitive dude who can just do it all and win. I can also defend at a high level. I think that’s one thing that separates me from a lot of guards is I actually love defending and with a 6’9” wingspan at my size I try to use it to my advantage. I use my length to play defense at a high level. Those are the main things I do…attacking the rim, using my speed and athleticism, change of speeds getting by dudes, etc. I think that’s my game in a nutshell.
PI: Where do you feel like you can still improve the most?
AB: For the next level, I need to keep getting better. Making open shots, being a great shooter. I shot about 41% from the three-point line this past season. So just keep shooting the three-ball at a higher clip. We shot at the college three-point line while playing prep school basketball, so that’s not going to be an adjustment for me and I shoot that at a high clip. So keep making shots, keep improving my reads in pick-and-roll situations and keep being a leader and a PG that everybody wants to play with. Those are definitely going to be the improvement areas this summer as I get ready for college.
PI: What would you say is an underrated aspect of your game?
AB: I think just my ability to score. I put a lot of numbers up this past season. I had like seven 30-point games, finished First Team in our league and had a great season. I think one of the main things I’ve been underrated for is how I get dudes better. When I play on the team I make dudes around me better and I don’t know if everybody sees it. I know people close to me tell me that, but I don’t know if scouts and people who might see me play for one time [see it], they’ve never said that to me but I think that’s something I do well. I make people around me better.
PI: Describe this past season — did it live up to your expectations?
AB: I think it did. I’m proud of the season I had. We made it to the national championship and we lost to Putnam Science by a few points. Being able to play at that high of a caliber against great teams in the national tournament was great. I think we most definitely overachieved and I think we had a great season. Honestly, I think I was overlooked this whole season in terms of recruitment, but that’s just part of my story. Things didn’t really work out as I thought they would, but I think everything happens for a reason and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be able to showcase my talents when I get to college next year. I think I had a great season and I’m proud of it for sure.
PI: Elaborate a bit more on your recruitment journey — what things did or didn’t go as planned?
AB: Yeah, so there’s been ups and downs in my recruitment since my sophomore year. After my sophomore season is when I really blew up and started getting high major offers. My first offer was Howard, followed by UMass, Brown, and UPenn. But once I got out there and more coaches were able to see me after my sophomore season, I think I skyrocketed. But due to coaches getting fired, the transfer portal, and all that, I’ve built a lot of relationships with schools. And honestly my frontrunners throughout my whole process ended up getting fired so I had to reset so many times. That was definitely frustrating, but I think my family kept me level-headed and I had a great support system. Those times when it was hard I was like, “dang bro,” and I didn’t know where I was going to end up. I never doubted myself through it all, but there was a lot of anxiety and emotions coming out when everything was changing so fast and out of nowhere. It’s most definitely been a long process and last week I committed to Columbia University.
I think that was the best choice at the time for me because it’s a spot where I can just go in and play right away, have the ball in my hands and showcase what I can really do. I don’t think that’s one thing I’ve been able to do yet, throughout my high school career at my full potential. There were definitely stretches where people saw what I could do, but being able to have my own team and be the dude that I know I am is really exciting. Initially, a lot of people knew this but I didn’t post this online, but I had committed to Kansas State in March. Then the next day they lost in the Big 12 tournament and then Coach Bruce Weber resigned. So stuff like that was happening, I was like “dang, as soon as I make a decision.” The recruitment process had been going on for so long and then stuff like that happens. I had to deal with that with a lot of coaches. Dealing with Coach Cuonzo Martin, I had a great relationship with him and he was gone. Coach Archie Miller was at Indiana my junior year and he was gone, they were one of my frontrunners, too. So just constant stuff like that. As soon as I made the decision to go to Kansas State the door closed. It was most definitely a hard process, but in terms of where I’m at now I’m definitely happy I committed last week. That’s my whole story.
PI: You didn’t have a junior season due to the pandemic — talk about your high school career as a whole.
AB: Yeah that was definitely tough, too, with COVID. No AAU my sophomore summer and then no season my junior year. I went a long time without being in front of coaches. People would watch on streaming and you’d have scrimmages and stuff like that. And I was still getting recruited throughout that process. Even though we didn’t have a season we would have scrimmages and I think I picked up offers from Virginia Tech, Nebraska, etc. There were some schools that would watch us play through Zoom and liked my game on film. I received offers, but at the same time I think it hurt me not having a whole junior season. That was challenging. Then honestly, this past summer with AAU wasn’t the best year for me. I wasn’t really in a position to have the ball, I was playing with a lot of guards and honestly, I don’t think the system was for me. My family and I have talked about it, but 17U for PSA Cardinals wasn’t really the best fit for me. Even though I played well…it’s not like I played down and had a whole horrible summer…I was putting up numbers and averaging like 25 points in EYBL, but there wouldn’t be coaches there that week, it was just a weird process. There would be games where I would be solid, but not really show what I could do to really make a name for myself and others where I would go off and no coaches would be there. I’ve been underrated throughout this whole process. But that week when I played well, coaches weren’t even there. It was kind of frustrating. I was like, “dang I wish coaches were here to see this.” It was most definitely hard, a lot of hard times. So with that being my last summer of AAU, I really had to prove myself my whole high school season and I think I did. I talked to a lot of coaches and we played a great schedule. We played Brewster Academy and beat IMG. Every coach I talked to was like, “dang man I don’t understand how you’re getting overlooked right now.” I was hearing that the whole season and it just kept adding fuel to the fire. I just kept my head down and kept working. And at the end of the day I realized what’s for me is for me and I don’t want to chase anything if a coach doesn’t really see my potential. And if I’m being overlooked, then that’s the plan and I’m not really mad at it. I just have to continue trusting my work and stay the same. Be a good person and be myself. That’s really been the plan through all the adversity.
PI: What set Columbia apart from your other options?
AB: Yeah, there were coaches telling me once this thing happened with Kansas State, coaches were getting fired and telling me to wait to see which college they land at. They were wanting me to wait and see while my destiny was getting out of my hands. Honestly, I just got tired of it and I didn’t want to put my destiny in anybody else's hands. Columbia was there and they were consistent. I knew what I was going to get by going there. The team wasn’t over recruited. I have a lot of friends playing at colleges that get over recruited all of the time and they get put in a tough spot. Each year coaches are bringing in five stars at your position and you might not get to play right away. One thing I didn’t want to do is play behind somebody I knew I could play better than. I’ve had to deal with that many times and I didn’t want to be in that same boat again. There were schools that came in a bit late in my recruitment — the Maryland staff hit me up, as well as Creighton. There were schools that were like, “we might have a transfer leave and there could be a scholarship opening up. We want you to stay open.” Some schools wanted me to wait until mid-late April and I really didn’t want to do that. It’s a stressful process…it’s not like I wanted to get it over with, but I did and I think I made a great choice.
PI: How excited are you to get to Columbia and help put them on the basketball map?
AB: I’m excited, for sure, especially with it being in New York City. The past few years haven’t really been all that good for them in the Ivy League, but I don’t really care about that. I know what I’m capable of and I’m going in there with one of my teammates, Blair Thompson. I think what we're going to do next year…obviously I want to win, but Coach [Jim Engles] trusts me to do what I can do and I want to have a big season. I’m chasing all of those personal goals like Freshman Player of the Year. Shoot, I’m even trying to win National Player of the Year. It’s going to be a big summer and I want to get in the lab and work my tail off so I’m ready to compete at a high level in college. Going to an Ivy League school people are probably saying, “it’s a four-year school” and “it's a great academic institution.” Yeah that’s right, but at the same time the NBA is my end goal and I’m never going to let go of that no matter where I’m at. That’s one thing I don’t want people to think that I don’t want just because I’m going to Columbia. I want the NBA to be my job. I don’t want to be in an office during my twenties and thirties — hopefully I’m making a lot of money playing basketball. However, I’ll build a good network in New York City and it’ll be fun to be in that atmosphere. I do multiple things, I have my own clothing brand and I think I’ll tap into a lot of avenues outside of basketball, but the main goal has been the same since day one, which is make the NBA and try to stay in it. I have no doubt in that dream. So I’m excited to go to Columbia and have a great career there no matter how long it is.
PI: What are some of your main interests off the court?
AB: Yeah, like I said, I’m into fashion. I started my own fashion line earlier in 2021. So I do that and make music in my free time with my friends. I spend a lot of time with my family. I’m just a loyal dude and I value the people around me. Most of the time I really just want to go home and get in the gym. I spend a lot of time with my sister, brothers, little cousins, parents, etc. Family means everything to me. That’s really me off the court, I don’t require too much. As long as I have my family, basketball and God, I’ll be good forever.
PI: What would be one hashtag you’d use to describe yourself? Why?
AB: I think it would be #rare, #oneofone or #unique, because I don’t think there’s too many dudes out there like me. I’d probably say that, for sure. I think I’m unique in my own way and like I said I like to make unique things. Even going to Columbia is out of the ordinary. So I think I’d say #unique. I don’t really care what anybody else thinks about what’s going on with my life as long as I’m good with the decision. So I would say #unique or #oneofone, for sure.
PI: Lastly, what’s your message to the Lions fans who are thrilled about your commitment?
AB: Columbia is going to be getting a winner. I’m ready to go in and change the culture from day one and compete in the Ivy League. Hopefully we get some big crowds at our games and I’m excited to go hoop in New York City, for sure.