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MP's Brown balances demands of being a 2-sport prospect

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Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 4:00 pm

The caller ID on Brian Fleming's cell phone surprised the Mountain Pointe boys basketball coach.

Jalen Brown was too busy scoring 21 touchdowns and snagging four interceptions to take the time for a phone call.

"He knew we were short on players and he called to say they were on their way home from Tucson," Fleming said with astonishment in his tone. "He said they had their jerseys and they could help out. It was crazy.

"They beat Chaparral by 17 (in the Desert Hoop Classic on Friday, June 3), drove down Friday night to Tucson for the U of A (Arizona) passing camp on that Saturday and he scored something like 17 touchdowns. He wanted to come back and help the basketball team. I told him to go home and get some rest."

Brown, the extremely talented sophomore-to-be at Mountain Pointe, is one of several players trying to balance responsibilities for both the football and basketball programs during the summer months.

While the demand falls on several players, none of them have Brown's potential. He already has three college offers (Arizona, Arizona State and Yale) for football and the wide receiver/defensive back isn't done growing at 6 foot and 173 pounds.

Most believe he could get the same type of attention in hoops if that was the direction - although he definitely is rawer in basketball - he chose to go.

Decisions he makes now - what camps does he attends, how much time does he spend with each sport, etc. - will shape his next three years of his high school athletic career.

It's a vital time for a very special athlete. One that can be overwhelming, stifling and exhausting if not handled correctly.

"At first it was tough," Brown said. "We got it figured out and it has gone a lot smoother. I can do both and not take away from the other."

Mountain Pointe football coach Norris Vaughan and Fleming made sure to coordinator their separate schedules to accommodate all of the players that play both sports.

"We didn't have too many conflicts but Norris and I sat down to figure it out," Fleming said. "It is really important that kids branch out and play as many sports as they can. We encourage that at Mountain Pointe. Of the 36 kids in the basketball program I think 18 of them played two or three sports. How do you know what sport you are going to be great at early on?

"I can't tell you how many times I have had kids come up to me after their senior year and tell me they wished they stuck with basketball. I just shake my head and laugh."

With Brown, who scored 21 touchdowns and had four interceptions (in seven games) at the U of A camp and was offered in person (as was Pride lineman Kenny Lacy) by Wildcat coach Mike Stoops, there won't be any regret as he already set the foundation for success.

He has been competing at an elite level, traveling to out-of-state camps and tournaments, for a handful of years so a basic guideline has been in place.

There might be alterations along the way, but Brown, with the help of his mom, Sarah Barnes, has the luxury of youth.

"I just love to compete," he said. "I guess it can be a lot, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I am part of both teams. I have responsibilities to both of them and I do what I can to make sure I'm part of everything they do."

Barnes has a handle on all of it and promises there is plenty of time for her son to be a 15-year-old.

"He does have time to rest and hang with his friends in between and manages to nap a lot and still get in his fair share of video games, Facebook, mall and girls," she wrote in an email. "He just saw two movies (last) weekend so it seems like all sports all the time but he enjoys it, and he still has time for fun and friends."

The schedule cranks up even more soon as travel starts becoming involved when the high school summer season for high school basketball ends.

Brown then starts playing as a guard for Arizona Magic Elite, which plays in several national tournaments in California and Las Vegas, and is considered one of the premier club teams in Arizona.

He then has to balance AAU ball with attending invitation-only football camps like Top 100 West camp/combine for National Underclassmen Combine in California on Friday, July 8 and the National Top Prospect camp in Oklahoma July 23-24.

It's what has become expected of top flight athletes who are trying to be seen by top 10 programs.

Most eventually settle on one sport, but Brown has carved out a scenario where he'll make it work for both sports.

And if anyone can keep up the pace it is Brown and he is certain to prove it.

"Jalen has so many opportunities in front of him and he could play either one in college," Fleming said. "Maybe he'll be a two-sport guy at the next level. He is one of those freaky athletes who as the maturity to pull something like that off.

"The workload is a lot but, I tell you what, nothing seems to be too much for this kid."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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