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Sports >  UW basketball

Defying the odds: UW’s Terrell Brown Jr. working toward NBA after sensational senior season

UPDATED: Sat., April 16, 2022

Washington's Terrell Brown Jr. (23) drives past Washington State's Michael Flowers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Seattle. Washington won 78-70.   (Associated Press)
Washington's Terrell Brown Jr. (23) drives past Washington State's Michael Flowers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Seattle. Washington won 78-70.  (Associated Press)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

PORTLAND – Folks sitting in small groups spread throughout the Moda Center stands sit watching in search of the next big star.

Nearly every NBA front office dispatched a cadre of scouting personnel to last week’s Nike Hoop Summit to watch a scrimmage between the top 12 high school stars in the United States against a patchwork team of local hoops stars.

There’s a buzz in the building surrounding Duke signees Dereck Lively II, Dariq Whitehead and Kyle Filipowski. And much of the pregame hype focused on Amari Bailey, the consensus No. 2 recruit in the nation – headed to UCLA.

On paper, this game should be a blowout, and yet the local team came away with a draw while “winning” two of the four 10-minute quarters in large part due to Terrell Brown Jr.

This is where the path to the pros begins for the former Garfield High star who just completed one of the finest seasons in Washington Husky men’s basketball history.

If the 6-foot-3 point guard is going to buck the odds and disprove naysayers and critics, he has to convince this room of NBA power brokers that his game can be effective at the next level against the best players in the country.

“I’m not even going to say this is where it starts because it feels like I’ve been on this hoops journey my entire life,” said Brown who turns 24 on Saturday. “I’ll just say, this is where I’m at now. But I’ll say, this feels no different than anything else I’ve experienced.

“I’ve always been overlooked and counted out for as long as I can remember. And that makes me work even harder. The most important thing is to show them who I am … I’m somebody that works hard, plays with passion and plays to win.”

Several months ago, San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, the former UW Husky and Rainier Beach High standout, gave Brown some advice that he thinks about every day.

“He told me, there are going to be days in this process that are really hard and there are some days that are easy,” Brown said. “But the key is, just keep working. He always tells me, ‘I know you’re going to be fine because you work hard. You don’t let all of the other stuff define you.’

“That’s kind of why I like him so much. All (Murray) wants to do is play basketball. You don’t see too much of the other stuff in his private life because he keeps the main thing the main thing. I really take that from him. He’s like a big brother to me.”

During an hourlong conversation, Brown rattles off a litany of supporters he credits for helping navigate an unconventional basketball path that includes stops at Western Oregon, Shoreline Community College, Seattle University, the University of Arizona and Washington.

That’s five teams in six years.

“I can’t say that was the plan,” Brown said.

Washington’s Terrell Brown Jr. is helped up from the floor after scoring and drawing a foul against Washington State on Feb. 26.  (Associated Press)
Washington’s Terrell Brown Jr. is helped up from the floor after scoring and drawing a foul against Washington State on Feb. 26. (Associated Press)

When asked if he had any regrets or would change anything, Brown said: “Not a thing … because going through what I went through helped me become the player I am.”

Even though Brown was an elite defender and two-time state champion at Garfield, he was overshadowed on a team that included future Pac-12 standouts Jaylen Nowell and Daejon Davis.

“You can even say we overlooked him when he was at Garfield,” UW assistant Will Conroy said. “He was the two-time state defensive player of the year, but people overlooked his basketball IQ and his ability to make big shots.”

Brown landed at Division II Western Oregon, but after a few days he wanted to come home.

“Me and his mom drive him down and drop him off and I say give it a chance,” Brown’s dad Terrell Brown Sr. said. “The next day, he calls me and says, ‘Dad, I’m better than a Division II player. I don’t want to get stuck here.’ I said, ‘If you leave there and come home, what are you going to do?’

“I didn’t like him quitting, but he said, ‘Dad I promise you I’m not quitting basketball, but I’m better than this.’ So he comes home and that’s when I saw a change in him. He started grinding. Going to pickup games and open gyms everywhere. … That’s where it started. He wouldn’t accept that he’s not good enough. And I told him, prove everybody wrong then.”

The rest of the Brown’s story is straight out of a storybook. He rose to basketball acclaim during a one-year stint at Shoreline Community College. He walked on at Seattle University, and two years later became one of the program’s all-time scoring leaders in just 57 games.

After leading the WAC with 20.7 points as a junior, Brown transferred to Arizona, where he started nine of 26 games while accepting a reduced role. Still, he averaged 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists while ranking second in the country with a 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“When he came here, we told him we’d let him figure it out and wouldn’t stick him in the corner,” Conroy said. “He worked out with IT (Isaiah Thomas) every morning as Isaiah was putting himself back together. … Then Terrell went out did some of those same things.”

Brown was nearly everything for a 17-15 Washington team, while leading the Pac-12 in scoring (21.7) and steals (2.2) and garnering all-conference first-team honors.

“The best part was coming back home and playing in front of family, friends and the city,” Brown said. “I had former teachers emailing me and stuff like that. … We left it all on the court and we just came up short.”

Admittedly, Brown doesn’t like dwelling on the past.

“Not yet, because I want to keep moving forward,” he said. “Hopefully, when my career is over I’ll sit back and enjoy it. But I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, because I feel like that’s a level of cockiness to some degree. But I also know what I did was kind of amazing.”

For now, Brown is consumed with basketball.

Last week he was in Portland for the Nike Hoops Summit before flying to Irvine, California, where he trains with his sports agency Rep 1 Sports. This week, Brown hopped three flights to get to the Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia where he had a modest 13 points in the opener and scored 23 in his second game.

Still, Brown knows he needs to more than score. The early feedback from NBA scouts is concern about his 28.4% 3-point shooting over the past four years.

Even Conroy, who is Brown’s biggest advocate, knows the lack of a perimeter game will keep NBA teams at bay.

“Basketball-wise, he’s a modern-day Tony Parker,” Conroy said. “They have a lot of similarities. You can’t stop him from getting in the paint. He has all of the solution shots in there. Right hand, left hand, floaters, wrong-foot finishes – he has all of that stuff.

“He’s great in the midrange. His pull-up jump shot is really good. He can shoot free throws. The next part for Terrell is being a consistent, 40% 3-point shooter. If he gets that, he can have a great future in that league.”

A polling of a handful of scouts at the Nike Hoops Summit scrimmage suggests Brown has a lot of work to do in order to get selected in the June 23 draft. He’s not included on most mock drafts and is a long shot to snag a coveted invite to the NBA combine.

“Right now, I don’t think Terrell will get drafted,” said one Eastern Conference front office exec. “The lack of the perimeter game is one thing, but he doesn’t have the athleticism that you see most guys in the draft had.

“Now that being said, I think Terrell will play in the NBA. In fact, I’m pretty sure about that. Look not everybody in the league gets drafted.”

When the sentiments were relayed to Brown, he shrugged and smiled.

“All I want is an opportunity,” he said. “I know I’ll work my tail off in the gym every day and watch more film than anyone else. I’m willing to work for this and no matter how long it takes, it’s going to happen.”

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