Chas Brown was tired and discouraged. Two years removed from starring for Poly's boys basketball team, Brown found himself installing cable for Comcast, taking some classes at Howard Community College, and adjusting to life as the father of a newborn daughter.
One day on the job, the 6-foot-8 forward's frustrations boiled over.
"I was in a lady's house, and I think I knocked something over," Brown recalled. "It was just an epiphany, like, 'Man, you're too big to be here, doing cable. You don't need to do this.' In that instant, I left the lady's house, told her she needed to get someone else, and I quit right there. As soon as I left the lady's house, I called [Poly] Coach Sam [Brand]."
That phone call set in motion a series of events that led to Brown's commitment Monday to Albany. A year ago, Brown thought he might be done with basketball -– and school -– forever. Now he's set to join the reigning America East champions and finish his bachelor's degree.
"It's a mind-blowing experience. Everything is paid for," said Brown, who was also recruited by Coppin State, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, Murray State, Robert Morris and Wright State. "It's definitely a blessing that it's over with. I've been working for a long time. It's finally paying off."
Coming out of high school, Brown was an active, bouncy post player with double-double potential night in and night out. Brown said he had received some college interest, but at some point during his senior year discovered that he would miss NCAA qualifying standards. Brand, then in his first year as the Engineers' coach, did everything he could, but Brown's academic hole at that point was too significant.
"It was real disappointing," Brown said. "Coming from Baltimore, in this city and playing basketball, often times we don't get the right direction that we need in order to make it out or get a scholarship. We don't have anyone sitting down and telling us what we need to do until it's too late. … For me not to be able to [go to college] because of my grades, it was a huge letdown."
Under Brand's guidance, Brown made the best out of a bad situation and landed at Pensacola (Fla.) State College, a JUCO basketball powerhouse. He had a relatively nondescript freshman year but didn't "see eye to eye" with the head coach. Meanwhile, Brown increasingly felt like he needed to come back home.
"Around the same time I was about to have a baby girl come into the world," said Brown, who is still with the mother of his daughter. "It was a real trying time for me because I didn't know. I had other scholarships and opportunities, but the whole baby thing kind of threw me off. I didn't know what I was going to do. When I came back from Pensacola, I didn't really jump back into school. I didn't understand what was going on. It was a huge change for me. Knowing I was going to have a baby, how was I going to provide? That's something you have to worry about as a parent."
So Brown spent the 2013-14 school year taking some community college classes and working for Comcast. Basketball was an afterthought. But once Brown reconnected with Brand after that cable-installation-gone-wrong, basketball was back on the table when he was introduced to Baltimore City Community College coach Terry Maczko.
"My relationship with Coach Terry has just been a blessing for me," Brown said. "Through it all, I thought I wasn't playing basketball anymore. I thought my ride was over. I had been out of school and out of a structured program for going on a year at that time. I'm appreciative to him, basically just stepping out on a line for me. He heard about who I was, but I hadn't been playing for so long, so to give someone a full scholarship without seeing me play for a year, I just looked at it as a great opportunity for me and a second chance to take care of my daughter, get back to school and do what I wanted to do."
Maczko was happy to add a player of Brown's caliber to the Panthers, the defending Maryland JUCO Tournament and Division I Region XX champions.
"The big thing with him is, Chas plays hard and physical," Maczko said. "He got himself into some foul trouble in the beginning of the season and had to make an adjustment to that. Once he did, he just started playing really well and doing a lot of things for us. He's long, athletic, can run, he rebounds and defends. He's just a big-time competitor."
Brown averaged 10.9 points. 7.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 23.4 minutes per game. One of four DI-bound BCCC players, Brown had 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three steals in the team's season-ending loss in the district final. The Panthers had earlier won their second straight Region XX title.
Recruiting for Brown, meanwhile, had picked up considerably throughout the season. He had plenty of options, but decided to focus on schools within driving distance so he wouldn't be too far away from his daughter. Albany, about a five-hour drive or one-hour flight from Baltimore, was close enough.
"I just felt like when I went to Albany, it was just a real good family environment," said Brown, who plans to major in business management and minor in entrepreneurship. "The winning aspect was definitely important, too. I felt like my skill-set was a good fit for their program. They have basically the same core of guys who got them [to the NCAA tournament] coming back this season. That was definitely important in the decision. I was definitely trying to go somewhere and win."
Said Maczko: "I think it's a good fit. They were looking for a big guy to come in and contribute right away in the America East. … They just kind of see him as a guy that can come in, be a double-double guy. Chas is not a great scorer, but he's very active and does have some moves in the post. He'll put some points on the board. It's all intangible things that make him stand out."
Brown will be the second Baltimore native on the Great Danes' roster next season, joining former Dunbar star Evan Singletary, who also picked Albany, in part, so he could be relatively close to his young daughter. Brown said he's looking forward to helping Albany get back to the tournament, and working on and off the court so his daughter can have a better life.
"Through it all I'm just appreciative, especially to my high school coach and Coach Terry, just for the amount of work and effort they put in," Brown said. "I feel extremely blessed, man, with my journey and all the obstacles I had to climb to be here. And it's not over. It's just the beginning."