When I took a road trip to Baltimore over Veteran’s Day weekend, I expected to see a competitive game in the first-ever meeting between my Penn Quakers and the Loyola Greyhounds. What I ended up witnessing was one of the most dominant performances I have ever seen on a basketball court by a “mid-major” player.
The afternoon got off to a somber start with a moment of silence for former Loyola coach Skip Prosser, who passed away over the summer. Each team was playing its second game of the young season, with “young” being the operative word for the Quakers, who only have three seniors on their roster. I had heard of Loyola shooting guard Gerald Brown, a unanimous all-MAAC pick in 2006-2007, but I did not know much else about him. I was about to get an education.
Loyola has several players who grew up in the Maryland area, but Brown’s journey from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore did not take him directly to the Loyola campus. Brown began his Big East career by going to the NCAA Tournament with Providence in 2003-2004, while Loyola was in the midst of finishing 1-27. After playing in only 26 games over a 2-year span, Brown decided to transfer to Loyola and sit out the 2005-2006 season due to NCAA rules.
I used to assume that players who transferred from big-time athletic programs to smaller schools did so due to problems with academics, injuries, maturity, good competition, etc. Brown just turned 23 years old in December, but has already overcome more obstacles than most people twice his age. 2005 was the most eventful year of Brown’s life, as his mother Pamela passed away that July, and his son J’Lin Kai was born that November. Brown had a hard childhood, with some instances of fighting and misbehavior, but he seems to have turned his life around quite nicely. After regaining his eligibility, he erupted for 22.2 PPG during his first season at Loyola (4th highest in school history), placing him 8th in the nation in scoring and leading his team to its most wins ever as a Division 1 program.
Brown got off to a poor start against Penn, making only 1 of 6 FG through the first 12 minutes, as Loyola clung to a 5-point lead (18-13). From that point on, it turned into the Gerald Brown Show, as he proceeded to finish off the 1st half by making 5 of 5 FG, 4 of 5 FT, and picking up 3 steals on the defensive end. Right before the halftime buzzer, he sank a 25-footer from well behind the arc, giving him 19 points in 18 minutes, giving his team a 17-point lead (43-26), and giving all the Penn fans in the crowd an excuse to do something with the rest of their afternoon. After helping boost Loyola’s lead to 30 points midway through the 2nd half, Brown finished with a game-high 27 points (including 10 of 11 FT), 8 rebounds, and a career-high 6 steals in 31 minutes of action.
Through the end of December, there were only 3 players in all of Division 1 averaging 19+ PPG, 2+ 3PM/game, and 2+ SPG: Lester Hudson of Tennessee-Martin (the leading scorer in the country), David Holston of Chicago State (the leading 3-PT shooter in the country), and Brown. This combination of scoring, shooting, and defending is a valuable asset, and while there are not a lot of 6’4” shooting guards in the NBA, I think Brown just might have what it takes to sneak onto a summer league roster and make a legitimate push to make it in the pros.
There is a reason Brown wears the number 1 on his jersey (a tribute to Penny Hardaway), but I suspect that it is also a commentary on his ability to play basketball. From what I got to see in person in November, he is #1 in my book.