Bryan Sellers wasn't familiar with Lexie Brown's basketball past when she moved to the Atlanta area from Orlando and enrolled at North Gwinnett (Ga.) High last fall. But after some cursory research, the Bulldogs' girls basketball coach quickly became excited for the Maryland commitment's high school future.
“I knew who her dad was,” Sellers said of former NBA player Dee Brown. “When I found out she was coming, I was talking to some people around the Atlanta area who are in girls basketball. They were filling me in on who she was and what kind of player and what kind of kid she was. Obviously, I was very excited to have her in our program. When she got here, a lot more people found out what kind of kid she was and what kind of student she was, and obviously what kind of basketball player she was.”
The weeks leading up to the official start of Brown’s sophomore season weren’t without a few bumps in the road. Sellers said Brown, a 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard, was “hesitant” in acclimating herself to the team. It was readily apparent that she had talent, but it took some time for the Terps recruit to get completely comfortable in her new surroundings.
“She didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or anything like that,” Sellers said. “She didn’t want to just come in and say, ‘Hey, this is going to be my team.’ It really showed what kind of player she was. When she was at our first scrimmage, competition started and [she was like], ‘Hey, it’s time to play.’ She turned it on and went up three or four notches from what she had been doing before that. At that point, I was like, ‘Don’t hold back. You play your game and everyone else is going to have to catch up.’”From that point on, Brown guided the Bulldogs with the sort of fearlessness that earned her a Maryland offer last summer. Sellers said Terps coach Brenda Frese and assistant David Adkins checked in periodically, and were always impressed with what they saw in Brown.
“They’re excited to have her. They really are,” Sellers said. “There are some aspects that she brings to the table that they kind of struggled with this year. She’s got great handles. She’s a consistent outside shooter. I think she led or was second in 3-pointers made this year. So she’s a multidimensional player. When Coach Frese was here, she watched us play Norcross the first time and Lexie had 31. When the game was on the line, Lexie wanted the ball. She made something happen with it. That’s something Coach Frese was very impressed with.”
Brown proved to be the unquestioned star of North Gwinnett, averaging 18.5 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. She guided the Bulldogs to a 22-7 record and the Sweet 16 of the Georgia Class AAAAA state playoffs. Off the court, she ingratiated herself to teachers by making straight As in her honors and AP courses. And with the Bulldogs, Brown quickly showed herself to be the ultimate teammate.
“She had this breakaway, 2 on 1, and she sees the girl that’s running with her, who probably hasn’t scored 10 points all year,” Sellers said. “All she has to do is take it up a notch for the layup. But as soon as she saw her [teammate], there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to pass the ball. It was a perfect bounce pass and the girl lays it in. She’s just unselfish. Moments like that [happened] throughout the year. There were games that she didn’t play halfway through the third quarter because we were ahead by so many points. And she was just excited watching other girls on our team compete. She was on the bench, cheering on her teammates louder than anybody else.”
North Gwinnett beat the eventual state champion two out of three times, and enjoyed an 18-game winning streak midway through its season. With Brown on the Bulldogs’ roster for two more years, Sellers can’t help but wonder how much more success is in his program’s future.
“It’s just kind of amazing how mature she is. It’s hard to realize she was just a sophomore,” Sellers said. “She sees the whole game. She understands the whole game. And she just stepped into the situation where she fit in. She embraced the role and she was a leader on our team. It’s just amazing to me to know that she’s going to be back for the next two years. … So I’m excited to have her. I know Coach Frese is excited to have her, too.”