Coaches dream of moments like this. A prodigy walks into the gym, and jaws drop and hopes soar.
It happened to Paul Hayes.
Hayes, the longtime coach at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, remembers when he first saw Jordan Brown. Hayes eyed the polite youngster, from his high tops to the top of his high-rise ’do. Yes, Brown, at 6-feet-9, passed the look test, but size is irrelevant if there isn’t more to the package.
Brown showcased his skills immediately. When does the season start?
“Two days after eighth-grade graduation, and Jordan steps onto the floor ... and we just knew he was going to be good,” Hayes said. “I was so impressed with his quiet confidence. He felt like he belonged, and he played like it. And Jordan was immediately accepted by his new varsity teammates because anytime you bring a freshman up, it can be a tough transition.”
Brown blended in seamlessly on one of the top programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section, with a history that included a CIF Northern California Division II championship in 2003 and NorCal finals in 2010 and 2011.
Last season, despite winning 18 games, the Timberwolves just missed the playoffs. Woodcreek was one player away, and along came Brown.
The freshman will be the focal point for Woodcreek when it plays San Ramon Valley of Danville on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena for the CIF Division I Northern California Regional championship.
Brown is one of the most gifted freshmen to play in this region in the past 25 years.
Michael “Yogi” Stewart, 6-10 shot-blocking freshman at Kennedy in 1990, was not nearly as skilled as Brown at the same age. Stewart excelled at Cal and played nine seasons in the NBA, including as a rookie with the Kings. Rich Manning, admittedly aloof his first three years in the late 1980s at Center High School, became The Bee’s Player of the Year and excelled at Syracuse before playing in the NBA.
Big guys generally take longer to develop, but Brown seems to have leap-frogged those steps.
“I’m so impressed with him because he has great skills already, and he doesn’t get rattled,” said Manning, an assistant coach at Sheldon, which played Woodcreek in the section playoffs. “He may come out of here as an all-time great.”
Brown, who averages 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, is difficult to defend. His footwork and quickness allow him to spin around defenders on the baseline, and his long reach and touch enable him score on finger rolls. He can face the basket and shoot, he can run the floor, and he yanks down rebounds with aggression, all while keeping his cool.
De La Salle, the powerhouse program in Concord, sent waves of defenders at Brown. He never wavered, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
“I’m getting better, and I’m having fun,” the soft-spoken Brown said. “Just glad I helped the team win.”
“Jordan has an unbelievable demeanor and composure for a freshman – or a senior, for that matter,” De La Salle coach Frank Allocco said. “The sky is the limit for him. With his great attitude and work ethic, he can be a truly unique player. Great shooting touch, footwork, great spatial awareness, great teammate. He has it all.”
Brown’s father agonizes during every game. Dion Brown, powerfully built at 6-8, played overseas. He and wife Yolanda are pleased when talking about their son.
“Very impressed, very proud,” Dion Brown said after a recent game.
Dion Brown has worked with his son on how to approach the sport and how to be aggressive in the post.
“Jordan’s dad has been such a big element, teaching him the game,” Hayes said. “Jordan came to us very skilled and mature, and that carries over into the classroom. What students here respect the most about Jordan is how humble he is. If he was arrogant or cocky, I don’t know if the student body would accept him, but Jordan is a role model in his behavior and actions, and he has a high-five and fist pump for everyone.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.