Jaylen Brown has been highly touted since he began his high school career at Joseph Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. As a 6-foot-5 sophomore shooting guard in high school, Brown already showed signs of what would make him finish as the No. 2 overall player in the 2015 class just three years later.
Brown was ranked as a top 25 player in the 2015 class as a sophomore, and his game and body continued to grow. Now, Brown will take his talents to Berkeley, California, where he hopes to start his own legacy alongside another highly touted big man, Ivan Rabb.
California wasn’t always the favorite to land Brown, who waited to announce until after his senior season when he was primarily considering Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and hometown colleges Georgia and Georgia Tech. His mother, Michelle Brown, spoke about his decision to wait, according to CBS Sports:
“Jaylen waiting until [April or May to pick a college] is still on the table at this time. This is a very difficult decision, and I want Jaylen to be at peace with his choice and not be rushed. I also want him to feel comfortable that his choice covers where he can excel in both academics and athletics.”
New California coach Cuonzo Martin worked hard to secure a commitment from Rabb, who decided to play close to home. Rabb, much like Brown, was a top 10 high school prospect and McDonald’s All-American. Rabb had some convincing to do if Brown were to come to California over other blue-blood programs – not something seen very often these days.
On May 1, 2015, Brown committed to California and coach Martin, who had first recruited him as 6-foot-3, 170-pound freshman while Martin was at Tennessee. Now, California looks to go from a middling Pac-12 team to not only a favorite but a team who could potentially do some serious damage in the NCAA Tournament.
Brown adds to a solid core of perimeter players on California, most notably combo guard and NBA prospect Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Matthews and Jabari Byrd to provide a lethal combination of athleticism, shooting and slashing. Rabb brings positional versatility as he can play alongside sophomore 7-footers in Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh or center on his own.
So just how much of an impact can Brown make his freshman year at Cal? Two Georgia high school coaches talked about Brown’s potential impact. Alan C. Pope High School basketball coach Patrick Abney thinks he’s the most talented Georgia high school player since Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a former Wheeler standout who went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA. He also compared him to LeBron James, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I see him potentially being a point guard in the NBA, could be similar to Lebron,’’ Abney said. ‘’He’s very unselfish, loves to pass and make his teammates better.’’
That’s quite the endorsement, and a tribute to Brown’s overall talent level as a 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward. Abney also detailed some of the strengths in his skill set:
“He’s most effective when he’s driving, loves to shot fake/jab and go left a lot, which is unusual for a righty. He’s an unbelievably quick leaper and incredible offensive rebounder. Has very quick post moves and is almost un-guardable when he gets it in the post.’’
Pepplebrook High School basketball coach George Washington coached against Brown in a one-point loss in the state championship game this past season. Washington noted some of the same things about Brown’s game:
‘’Super athlete,’’ Washington said. “Loves to shoot the mid-range off the dribble. Can shoot the three-ball. He is a terror in transition. Loves to get his teammates involved early. Loves to have the ball in crunch time. Loves to defend the opposing team best player. Has great court awareness. High basketball IQ.’’
Brown’s game is well rounded, and that’s the first thing you notice when watching him. He’s very skilled as an offensive threat, and he has elite athleticism and quickness on an NBA-ready frame. Brown is very good at attacking the rim, utilizing an above-average handle combined with his athleticism to finish at the basket.
However, Brown must continue to develop his jump shot for the NBA level. This will help him get into the lane at will with the respect of the defense contesting his jumper. Beyond that, consistency is another area of improvement – many college freshman start strong out of the gate and hit the freshman wall midseason.
Brown should be an immediate impact player at Cal thanks to his versatility, athleticism and promise on the defensive end. Brown has all the tools to be a successful pro down the line, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes the nation by storm, just like he did during his high school career.