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James Brown Q&A

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

Credit: @_visualsbyds (IG)

A five-star recruit ranked in the top-30 nationally in the class of 2024, James Brown of St. Rita High School (IL) and MeanStreets (IL) is a unique player who is next in a talented line of elite big men to come out of the state of Illinois, highlighted by Anthony Davis in 2011. In his sophomore season at St. Rita, Brown averaged a double-double and helped his team earn a spot in the Class 4A IHSA State Championships. Standing at a towering 6’10.5”, the center’s calling card is versatility as he can finish with either hand, initiate offense in the open court, and rebound the basketball. After participating in the 2021 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team May minicamp and U16 National Team training camp, the rising junior looks to build upon his previous experiences and showcase his improved skill set at the 2022 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team April minicamp during the Final Four in New Orleans.

As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Brown discussed his relationship with his cousin and former NBA player Corey Brewer, teaming up with 2024 forward Morez Johnson in high school and in AAU, his favorite pairs of Jordans to wear, and much more.

For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2024 prospect James Brown, from Aurora, Illinois:

Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today? Talk a bit about your background and your family.

James Brown: So I'm from Aurora, Illinois. Just me, my mom, and my dad. I’m an only child. And how I got to where I am today…just working hard. My mom and my dad had me in a lot of different sports growing up: soccer, baseball, basketball, football — and basketball is just the one that stuck. Height obviously, but basketball is just the one that stuck and ever since my dad told me that if I wanted to play basketball at a serious level, it’s gonna take a lot of hard work and a lot of time and energy. So that's just what I've been doing. Whether it's waking up in the morning to get to St. Rita to workout after school or my dad driving me an hour or so to this one gym to work out, it's just been a lot of hard work and energy that I've been doing to get here.

PI: Did your parents play any sports?

JB: My dad played football at Howard University and then my mom played volleyball in high school and then she went to the University of Cincinnati and graduated from there.

PI: Where do you get your height from?

JB: I think I got my height from my mom’s side of the family because my mom is six-foot, so she's pretty tall for a woman. And then on her side, I have a lot of cousins that are 6’8”, 6’7”, 6’6” and going back to my family being athletes, my cousin is actually Corey Brewer who went to Florida and then won a championship with the Mavericks, so yeah.

PI: What’s it like having a cousin who has experienced both a college and NBA career? Has he shared some advice or insight from his experiences that has helped you?

JB: Yeah, it's really cool. Corey's been a great resource to have. Sometimes I'll send him texts just asking him, “hey, what do you think about this? Hey, I did this move. You think this was right?” And since I've been young, he's been getting me and my parents tickets to his games whenever he comes to play the Bulls. Being able to see him play up close, it's pretty cool, and then I know that he's coaching with the Pelicans right now, so when I go to New Orleans for USA Basketball, I know I'll probably get to talk with him and chop things up about how things are going down there. But I mean, it's just a great resource to have, just with all the experience and knowledge that he's had, and all the championships he's been able to win, it's just great to have somebody like that in your corner.

PI: When did you primarily start to focus on basketball?

JB: It was about sixth grade when I started solely focusing on basketball. I stopped playing my last season of football and that's kind of when me and my dad had a conversation like if you want to strictly do basketball and if you want to do it at a high level, it's gonna take a lot of dedication, a lot of work, a lot of time, and it's not going to be easy. So kind of sixth grade is when I started solely focusing on basketball and I’d say ever since then my progression and my skill and stuff, it's been slowly getting better from there.

PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths?

JB: I would say my greatest strength is my versatility. Being able to get up the floor as somebody my size, my ability to finish with both hands. I'm naturally left-handed, but on the basketball court I shoot with my right hand. So being naturally left-handed, it gives me an ability to finish through contact with my left hand and finish around people with my left hand while also being able to finish fairly well with my right hand. I think that being able to step out and shoot is one thing that I'm working on and something that I'm getting better at. So I feel like once I add that to my game, then things will get really interesting. But just my versatility, being able to put the ball on the floor, initiate the fast break, things like that are really the things that are really cool about my game.

PI: Who do you model your game after or study on film?

JB: Joel Embiid. That's one thing that me and my trainer Zac Boster look at in workouts and the moves that Joel Embiid is doing. Moves that Kevin Durant is doing. Things Giannis does. Even stuff on the fast break that we see from James Harden — eurostep-stuff like that is all things that I try to take bits and pieces from everybody's game and put it into mine, so I would say that. But if I would say I had to try and model my game after one person, I would definitely say Joel Embiid.

PI: What are your current measurements?

JB: So my height, I'm currently about 6’10.5”. My weight is about 210, 215 [pounds], somewhere in that area and then my wingspan is about 6’11”.

PI: Do you have a pretty specific training regimen?

JB: Okay, so every workout we always start off with post footwork. We're working on different post moves, different footwork, where to catch the ball, different things to see on the court, so I know what moves to do in different positions. Then from there we usually work on stuff out of the pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops, different drives, different finishing combos, coming off of two feet, one foot. Then from there we kind of just put up shots whether it's one-dribble pull-ups or catch-and-shoot stuff, or whether it's coming off, setting a down screen, flash and flashing middle, things like that. Then after that we usually work on finishing and add a little bit of ball handling into it.

PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?

JB: I know next year one big goal that I have for me and my whole high school team is winning the state championship. That's something that I think we really want to do. Coming up a little bit short this year, making it all the way to the sectional championship, it's something that we definitely feel like we can do. One other goal I have is winning Peach Jam this year with my AAU team. That's something else I feel like we could do. I think we got the talent. My teammate, my high school teammate, Morez Johnson, Nojus [Indrusaitis] from Lemont [HS]. I think we got the talent where we can win Peach Jam as well. Some personal goals…going back down to New Orleans, I want to put myself in a position where this time I can make the USA team and possibly win a gold medal. A little further down the line, becoming a McDonald's All-American is something that I want to do. Playing in the Final Four, March Madness going on right now, but putting myself in a position to compete in the NCAA tournament, and possibly winning a national championship at the collegiate level.

PI: It’s definitely special that you’re able to play with Morez both in high school and in AAU — how would you describe your connection with him?

JB: Yeah, I think our chemistry is very good. I know whenever I catch the ball at the high post, I know Morez is going to be flashing, stepping in and diving down under the basket so I know that's the one place where I can always hit him. I know he's always running with me on the break, going and getting it off the rim. Our chemistry really stems from our relationship just off the court. One thing that Coach Roshawn [Russell] told us was in order for us to establish a great chemistry on the court, we have to become really close off the court — so just having different conversations about what inspires us to play basketball or what we're feeling about different things just in life. That's something that's really helped both of us find each other and make each other better on the court. And then also in practice, one thing that I love about Morez is that he's always pushing me and he's always giving me 100% in practice, which is something that really makes me better and it also makes him better, as well, and it kind of brings us closer together so that our connection is just that much better.

PI: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

JB: I feel like I'm more of a leader by example, not necessarily a leader by words. What I do in practice, how I carry myself, how I talk to different people, different positions that I put myself in — and I feel like that's how I'd be a leader. Not necessarily a “you do this, you do that, blah blah blah blah blah” type of leader.

PI: Describe your experience with MeanStreets. Besides Morez, is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to playing with?

JB: Well, before I get to who I'm excited to play with, I'm really excited to be coached by Coach Tyrone Slaughter. He's a legend in Illinois and Chicago high school basketball, so it's a great honor for me to be able to learn from one of the best basketball minds that there is in Illinois. But I'm really excited to play with everybody on the team. I know I’ve started to create a relationship with Nojus who just went down to the Super-Sectional in 3A with Lemont, so he's a great player I'm excited to get to play with. Carlos Harris [III], Luke Williams, just some guys that I'm excited to get to know…KJ Windham. They got a great roster. They had a great team and I'm just excited to be able to become a part of it and help them win Peach Jam.

PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?

JB: Oh, that's tough. The toughest individual match up that I've ever played against will probably be either Jalen Lewis or Ron Holland. Those two are…they're two great great players in the 2023 class. Both arguably top-10 in their class, top five in their position, so those two are really challenging me playing them.

PI: Was this with USA Basketball last year?

JB: Yep, this was at USA Basketball, last year.

PI: By the way, congrats on the selection to the USA Basketball Junior Men’s National Team April minicamp. Describe your experience with USAB — what are you hoping to build upon from last time?

JB: Just showing them that I've gotten better from last time. Coming back, being able to do a couple things that I couldn't do as well last year: shooting, handling the ball, just showing them that I'm a hard worker. I'm dedicated to the team. Whatever they need me to do, I'm willing to do it. Just showing that I'm constantly getting better and I'm constantly ready to work and do what they need me to do.

PI: How do you see your role at the next level?

JB: I see myself as being somebody who does the little things, whether it's setting screens, rebounding, scoring — whatever you need me to do is just something that I'm willing to do. I don't need to be a 30-point guy every single night and all. Just happy if I could get 25 rebounds. If that's something that a coach needs me to do, then that's what I'm willing to do.

PI: What’s your recruitment update?

JB: Recently, Oklahoma and Notre Dame have been in touch. I know Coach Roshawn has been getting some calls from Duke, Memphis, Michigan, and Georgetown. Georgetown reached out a couple weeks ago, but I've just been watching everybody playing in March Madness really closely. I was down in Illinois a couple weeks ago when they won the Big Ten Championship. So just learning about different coaches, getting a feel for them. That's something that me and my family have been taking very seriously, just considering every option. We’re getting to know them and ultimately finding what we feel fits best for me.