Lexie Brown prides herself on preparation. She appreciates organization and understands the importance of planning ahead.
So when the Maryland women's basketball recruit became one of three high school seniors selected to the Under-18 USA National Team in May, she was nervous.
Not to spend 11 days apart from her family training with the squad in Colorado. Not even to face the world's top competition.
No, Brown's chief concern was maintaining her unblemished grade-point average. The North Gwinnett (Ga.) High star's classes started earlier this month, meaning she'll miss two weeks of school before returning from the FIBA Americas under-18 women's championship in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. She was concerned the national team's hectic schedule would leave her little time to catch up on assignments and quizzes.
"I was freaking out, because my parents have an expectation for me to keep a 4.0," said Brown, who will play in Team USA's opening game against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. "I'm like, 'Mom, how do you expect me to keep straight A's the first couple weeks?' And she's like, 'I don't care.' So that's what I was stressing about."
And who can blame her? After all, the daughter of former NBA guard Dee Brown isn't accustomed to imperfection.
Brown orally committed to the Terps the summer after her freshman year. Since moving from Orlando to Suwanee, Ga., at the start of her sophomore year, Brown has impressed North Gwinnett coach Bryan Sellers with her unrelenting expectations for herself and others.
After the Bulldogs stumbled to a 1-5 start that first season, Brown paid her new coach a visit. She sat in his office and begged him to push the team more, to challenge everyone to work harder.
It was a turning point. Shortly after the meeting, North Gwinnett rattled off 18 straight wins en route to the Sweet 16 of the Georgia Class AAAAA state playoffs.
"Obviously the girls in the program, they wanted to do well, they wanted to win," Sellers said. "Lexie comes in and kind of through leading by example, shows them what it takes to be a winner. She kind of became like an assistant coach."
But, at times, Brown can be her own worst enemy. Midway through last season, the 5-foot-9 point guard had been feeling exhausted for days. She could hardly finish a workout and struggled through the sprints.
"In the middle of basketball season, you suck it up," Brown said. "You just keep playing because it's basketball season."
About three minutes into one particular game, though, Sellers noticed Brown's energy was extremely low and sent her to the locker room to change into street clothes.
The next day, Brown was diagnosed with mononucleosis. The case was so severe that if she had gotten hit, her spleen could have ruptured.
Brown missed the next four games but returned in time to lead the Bulldogs to their first state semifinals appearance since 1963. She notched a triple double in the quarterfinal win.
"With her desire and her competitive nature and that kind of stuff," Sellers said, "she's pushed herself to do it and pushed herself to get through it."
Making the national team was no different.
During the month prior to May's tryouts, Brown trained regularly — often twice a day — with her father, who is now an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons. The former Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic guard put her through drills designed for NBA players and helped her develop a strength and conditioning program for her.
"She was kind of like my guinea pig as a coach," Dee Brown said. "A lot of the stuff I had learned as a coach to train players has been concentrated on Lexie."
That expert guidance has helped Brown make a smooth transition with the national team. After making the 12-player roster, Brown joined her father at the Piston's pre-draft workouts and returned to Colorado for team practices earlier this month.
She said she initially struggled to find her voice on the court, preferring to defer leadership responsibilities to her teammates — most of whom are incoming college freshmen. As practices progressed, however, Brown became more comfortable with her role. She started barking plays and orchestrating the offense.
"Being thrown right into these types of practices and being ready to play games, it's sped up that process a little bit," Brown said. "But I think this has been great for me. I've kind of had to grow up a little bit while I've been up here."
That maturation process will surely continue the next few days. Brown, who according to ESPN is the No. 18 prospect in the Class of 2013, expects to play significant minutes for a squad widely considered the favorite to win gold in Puerto Rico.
And when the tournament is over, don't expect Brown to hit the gym right away. The 17-year-old has other responsibilities that need attention.
"I'll have to do makeup quizzes and tests," she said. "I'm going to be behind for a little bit, but when I get back, I'll have a couple weeks off from playing and working out. So I'll probably spend my time getting caught up in school."
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