By Joe Henricksen
Whether fair, true or accurate, Sterling Brown is continuously compared to his older brother, Shannon Brown, who is currently enjoying a fine NBA career after starring at both Proviso East and Michigan State.
The truth is, however, there is very little that is the same between these two talented hoopers -- other than the obvious, which is the last name, blood and the Proviso East roots.
They have different strengths and styles of play. Shannon was an uber-athlete, an explosive scorer, a big-time finisher who was so strong getting to the basket and played with a nasty chip on his shoulder that exuded toughness and confidence; Sterling is more passive, yet more versatile, smoother and a tad bit more skilled than Shannon was at the same age.
They are built differently and have developed at a different pace. Shannon was a 6-3 guard with strength, a solid body and was among the top players nationally in his class early on in his career; Sterling is 6-5 with more length and is in the process of solidifying himself on the national scene. As far as their development as players -- at least through their early years as high school players -- Shannon's rise and development was meteoric, while Sterling's has been more subtle. Sterling is now realizing it's his time.
And their recruitment has certainly been different.
No one is more in tune with all of the Brown comparisons and seeing the differences than dad, Chris Brown.
"As players they are completely separate in almost every way," says Chris Brown of his two sons.
The Hoops Report caught up with the proud father last week, spending a little time breaking down both Shannon and Sterling.
"Sterling's flight [as a player] has been a little different," dad points out. "You can run down the hill and beat up the one guy at the bottom. That's what Shannon did. Or you can take your time, walk down the hill and beat them all up, one by one. Sterling wants to walk down that hill."
Sure, Sterling may have picked up the pace a bit and sprinted just a little last March when he tore up Simeon in the Class 4A state championship game. Who was it that starred in that game? Jabari Parker? Marquette-bound Steve Taylor? Kendrick Nunn? Nope. It was Sterling's title game performance -- 25 points on 10 of 18 shooting with a couple of 3-pointers and 5 rebounds -- that left everyone in attendance and those watching on TV thinking, "OK, NOW he's ready to take that next step." But overall, Sterling's progression has been, just as dad noted, a process.
"The thing with Sterling is that when the light went on and he began to realize how good he can be, that's when his confidence skyrocketed," says Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce. "He walks into the gym now with a little swagger. He has to keep that attitude, that hunger. that intensity and want to continue to get better."
Chris Brown has started to see Sterling separate himself from others after averaging 13 points and over 9 rebounds a game as a junior.
"He deferred to the three guards last year as a junior," says Chris of the talented Pirate trio of Keith Carter, Paris Burns and Paris Lee. "Then the state tournament rolled around. That's when you started to see Sterling separate himself from what he was."
Yes, indeed. The Hoops Report is so much more enamored with Brown than it was 12 months or even six months ago -- that state title game performance helped, of course. But physically, his body has developed right along with his assertiveness. But what makes Sterling Brown so intriguing is his versatility. He's able to defend multiple positions. And while still more of a 3-man/wing than a true 2-guard at this point, he's become a better ballhandler and his developed mid-range game is quietly sneaking out to the 3-point line. For the right team, in the right system and in certain matchups in college, Brown will be able to play three different positions effectively down the road.
"The biggest difference I've seen with him is his willingness to play multiple positions," says Boyce, who plans to create all types of mismatches on the floor with Brown this season. "He's not afraid to mix it up in the post and his perimeter skills have become more polished."
The other aspect Chris Brown has seen that's been entirely different with his two sons is their recruitment. Dad says it's been a world of difference when it comes to the recruitment of Shannon and Sterling.
First, despite it being just 10 years ago, the courting was different. There were boxes of letters from college coaches for Shannon, not the endless phone calls, texts and emails he and Sterling receive.
"The social media has changed it all so much," says Chris. "Plus, it was different in that Shannon was a top 10 player in the country his junior year."
In the final post-season RSCI rankings, a compilation of all the national rankings into one by national scouting services, Shannon Brown was the No. 3 ranked player in the country. He was behind only LeBron James and Luol Deng, while ahead of players like Chris Paul and Kendrick Perkins.
Meanwhile, Sterling's reputation is, once again, still growing. He's the No. 128 ranked player in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com (too low), while checking in at No. 76 by Scout.com (a little closer to being right). Regardless of where the kid is ranked, Sterling Brown is a coveted high-major prospect.
Chris Brown says the decision will be "entirely up to Sterling." He does know there are three things -- in order of importance -- that Sterling will be looking at when breaking down his suitors.
"He will first look at the education that will be offered. That's first," says Chris matter-of-factly. "The system they play will be second, followed by how many guys they get to the league [NBA]. But I'm supporting any decision he makes. I just encourage him to work on his craft."
According to dad, the recruitment for Sterling remains wide open. They want to see who is there at the end of July.
"What schools are going to show they really want Sterling?" Chris says at the thought of what lies ahead in August.
There is a list of schools that have shown the most interest and the Browns are interested in, which includes the local programs -- Northwestern, DePaul and Illinois -- along with Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Colorado, Louisville, Xavier, Florida State, Saint Louis and Miami.
"But there is a new school or a new offer about every week," Chris points out. "Sterling will narrow it down in August and take some visits in the fall."
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