Charlie Brown Jr. in 2018, anxious to get back on the court and prove his talent Credit: Kris Rhim / Billy Penn

It started out like a normal Tuesday in October for St. Joseph’s University guard Charlie Brown.

The sophomore arrived at practice at 3:30, and went through drills. Then, like usual, the Hawks began running 5-on-5s. Brown got the ball on a fast break and saw his big man trailing him. He rose up for what he thought was going to be a routine finish. But at the last minute, he was knocked out of the air and sent flying onto the hardwood. He landed awkwardly, directly on top of his left wrist. A nightmare.

“At first I felt pain,” Brown recalled, “but I didn’t think it was broken. A couple days later, I found out it was.”

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time.

This was the season the Philly native was expected to take a leap and cement himself as a star. He’d been named a preseason Atlantic 10 All-Conference selection — and people were excited.

For athletes, injuries are something you never want, but they’re are often unavoidable. Some people never return to what they once were after getting hurt, or get down on themselves, causing them to struggle with recovery.

But Brown has been able to use his past and his family to stay motivated. He’s not about to let anything keep him from attaining his goals.

‘Everything happens for a reason’

Brown emerged as one to watch from his very first season at St. Joe’s.

The 6′ 7″ guard made the most out playing 34.2 minutes per game. For the statisticians out there, he averaged 12.8 ppg along with 5.0 rpg and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc, good enough to earn him an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie selection.

Then he broke his left wrist. He was of course disappointed, but Brown isn’t the kind of guy to be down on himself for very long.

“I was upset,” he told Billy Penn, “but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”

Hawks head coach Phil Martelli could tell how much his promising guard was crushed by the the injury, he said, but  gives Brown props for how he transitioned into a new role.

Charlie Brown before a game at the palestra. Credit: Luke Malanga / The Hawk

“It was awful,” said Martelli in regards to Brown’s injury. “He was a great teammate, but not having basketball for the first time his life was very challenging — his parents and his support system deserve a lot of credit.”

If Brown ever did get down on himself, he said, he would just look back and remember how far he’s come.

Following in dad’s footsteps

Though he spent much of his childhood living in the Northeast, Brown was born in West Philadelphia — where his dad had made something of a basketball a name for himself.

Brown’s dad played for Overbrook High School as part of a team that went undefeated, and then went on to play at North Carolina A&T and overseas, before injuring his achilles.

“It’s crazy because he kind of forced basketball on my older brother,” Brown said, “and [my brother] hated it. So he just let me have like free roam and I just fell in love with the game.”

He remembered playing with his father at Tarken Park in Northeast Philly everyday. “Some days I hated it, some days I loved it, some days I cried, some days I hated my dad, but he just made me better.”

Brown first started playing organized basketball at around age six. He played for St. Williams — part of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) League. He immediately started second-guessing if the game he’s now in love with was actually right for him.

“I really wasn’t good,” Brown recalled. “I honestly wanted to quit basketball. So I always look back at that to see how far I came.”

Along with that moment, Brown often thinks about a time in high school, which he still calls his biggest struggle.

Brown went to Imhotep Charter High School, near West Oak Lane — a basketball powerhouse that consistently produces division one talent and is in conversation for public league and state championships every year. The competition is cutthroat, and it’s hard to earn minutes, especially as a freshman. Brown played junior varsity there, but was never able to garner any playtime on the varsity level.

“The worst part is I knew I was good,” Brown said. “When I first got there the team was already loaded. I really wanted to play but I just couldn’t play, that’s what I dwell on the most.”

After his sophomore high school season, Brown decided he needed a fresh start.

“I used to talk to the coach and ask him if I could have some time. He never gave me time, so my second year I was like ‘It’s time to get out of here.’”

For his junior season, Brown transferred to George Washington High School — and that made the difference. Up until that point, he had not received any interest from Division 1 colleges. But during his senior year, Brown’s stock finally skyrocketed. St. Joe’s and many other schools took notice.

“Right away we saw the ability to score the basketball,” said Hawks coach Martelli.

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‘A star in the making’

After he graduated from George Washington, Brown did a prep year at St. Thomas Moore in Connecticut, where he polished his game so he could be ready to contribute immediately for St. Joe’s.

Now, playing as a redshirt sophomore, Brown has his goals set high: he hopes to be next in line of players to go to the NBA from St. Joe’s, a list that includes:

  • Jameer Nelson (going into his 15th season)
  • Delonte West (nine years in the NBA)
  • Langston Galloway (Detroit Pistons)
  • And most recently DeAndre Bembry (Atlanta Hawks)

Brown is confident he’ll eventually join that group because of his work ethic.

“First I wanna be a better teammate, I think I was a good teammate my freshman year, but I can be a more improved teammate through communication,” he said.

“I just stay in the gym.” Brown said. “I have a personal trainer, I eat well, I sleep well and I just put in work.”

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Martelli agreed with the self-assessment, and called Brown’s work ethic second to none.

He thinks it’s a little premature, however, to call his guard a sure-fire NBA prospect. But he knows Brown has all the tools to get there.

“He is a star in the making because of his work ethic,” said Martelli. “He has the potential, but it’s way early — he has a lot to work on and he’s willing to work through it. I’m so impressed by his love of basketball, his willingness to be coached,  and because of those factors I want for him only the best.”