Maybe the reason everything happens so fast in Daniel "Dee" Brown's life is because he embraces the immediacy of every moment.
He walks fast, talks faster and dribbles a basketball fastest of all. Illinois coach Bill Self says that "Dee Brown changes ends as fast as anyone in America." Brian Cook, Brown's future teammate in Champaign, describes the incoming freshman as "the human fast break."
The Proviso East All-State point guard races across 40 yards in 4.45 seconds, and as the Pirates' option quarterback last fall, his game-breaking moves reminded some of Indiana's Antwaan Randle El, who was an outstanding point guard at Thornton. Nebraska and Florida State recruited Brown as a quarterback after he passed and ran for more than 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns in seven games.
He is just as fast finishing his homework or raising his hand in class, to which his 3.7 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale attests. His ACT score of 18 makes him an academic qualifier for a Division I scholarship.
Besides averaging 28 points, six assists and five steals for one of the top programs in the state, Brown fast became the darling of Illinois basketball with his fun-loving, high-energy appeal and genuine passion for the game.
The 2002 Mr. Basketball of Illinois was a landslide winner, outdistancing runner-up Andre Iguodala of Springfield Lanphier by an almost 2-1 margin in statewide voting by coaches and the media. Brown becomes the first player from Proviso East to win the award.
"I was shocked because I figured either [Julian All-Stater] Sean Dockery or Andre Iguodala would win it," Brown said. "I guess I got lucky. My first goal was to get Downstate. When that didn't happen, my next goal was to win Mr. Basketball."
Last year's winner, Eddy Curry, and the 2000 choice, Darius Miles, both skipped college and were top-five picks in the NBA draft, making Brown the fourth straight award-winner to choose Illinois after Cook, Frank Williams and Sergio McClain.
"I loved our team this year, but we weren't the quickest," Self said. "Dee is jet-quick and has the capability to hit five or six three-pointers in a game.
"He is a born leader who pumps enthusiasm and energy into everything he touches. We struggled getting our team to talk this season. Now that Dee's on board, the next four years we'll probably struggle to get our team to be quiet."
According to his mother, Kathy Brown, her loquacious 17-year-old son will talk to himself when there's nobody around.
When his jumper goes off line, Brown will talk to the basketball.
"Yeah, I've done that," Brown said with a smile. "I'll say: `Go into that hole right there. See that rim? That's your home. Time to go in--it's curfew.'"
There was no need for any such conversation against Addison Trail this season when Brown hit 12 three-pointers and scored 42 points.
"Dee's never been a shy guy," said Peoria Manual coach Andrew Johnson, who coached Brown for three years at Proviso East. "If he doesn't wind up with a future in basketball, he'll make a great attorney. He can talk you out of anything. If he can't guard someone, he'll talk him into a bad game."
The creative Brown, who has made his own football and basketball videos complete with background music, designed a unique training regimen to develop his considerable ball-handling skills.
When he was 10 years old and living in a West Side apartment with his mom, Brown would dribble a ball non-stop for 4 miles to a shopping mall.
He would practice with basketballs that were lopsided, bald or semi-deflated.
He can go behind the back and between his legs while dribbling on his bed.
"Our kitchen in Chicago was real narrow, and there was this beautiful glass table on one side," Brown said. "I would practice knowing there would be consequences for my actions. I couldn't turn the ball over in the kitchen because I might break her table. I couldn't turn the ball over in a big game because I might break my teammates' heart."
Brown used to play in an alley, run into a friend's house at the first sound of gunfire, then just as quickly resume the game.
"I saw and experienced a lot of things," Brown said. "There were shootings, drug deals, fights. I just haven't seen anyone murdered yet."
After teaming with future Young star Marcus White and eventual Crane star Lorenzo Thompson at Bethel Elementary School, Brown wanted to attend Westinghouse and play for coach Chris Head.
But Kathy Brown wanted to leave the West Side. Her son chose Proviso East over St. Joseph and Fenwick, and mother and son moved into Maywood. On Feb. 1 Kathy and Dee moved into a two-bedroom apartment in LaGrange.
Kathy Brown raised Dee by herself after divorcing Dee's father, Fred Brown, in 1995.
Dee has two older brothers, Katon, 28, and Kevin, 23, who are living on their own.
"I'm so proud of him and all of his accomplishments," said Kathy Brown, who works in the sales department of a liquor distributorship. "He talked about all these goals, and he is right on target about reaching them. That takes a lot of stress off me."
Brown, who will compete in Thursday's McDonald's All-American Game in Madison Square Garden, has a dream of one day playing in the NBA.
"My mom has worked so hard and sacrificed so much for me," Brown said. "If the time comes and I sign on the dotted line, she will get one-fourth of my contract."
Kathy Brown smiled. Perhaps such a scenario to her would be like winning the lottery.
"I'm just grateful that Dee has earned a free college education," she said. "That will provide him with the means to earn a good living."
Brown would like to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Isiah Thomas.
"I think Isiah was the best point guard ever," Brown said. "That's why I wear his jersey. I just love Isiah. I want to do everything Isiah did.
"He's a role model of an African-American entrepreneur. Isiah came from the same West Side environment that I did, made it to the top. I want to win an NBA championship like he did and then become a coach."
Before that there's the matter of the Illini.
"Illinois is getting a great kid," Johnson said. "With Dee running the show, they will be a more exciting team to watch. Other players love to play with him because he knows how to elevate their games."
Illinois players accustomed to Frank Williams' laid-back leadership may be in for quite a change.
"I'm telling the guys: `I'll be going real fast, so watch out for the ball,'" Brown said. "`Sean Harrington, be ready to shoot the three. Brian Cook, be ready inside.'
"I've seen games where Brian has gone for 20 points in the first half and finished with 22. If he does that next season, I'll kill him. Twenty in the first half--you better finish with 36."
A closer look at Dee Brown, 2002 Mr. Basketball of Illinois.
Height: 6 feet.
Position: Point guard.
Year in school: Senior.
Birthday: Aug. 17.
Favorite subject: English.
Grade-point average: 3.7 on 4.0 scale.
Basketball average: 28 points, 6 assists, 5 steals.
Financial acumen: "Put $100 in my pocket and I'll make it last a month."
Favorite player: Isiah Thomas.
If I don't make the NBA: "I'd be good in public relations."
Fast food of choice: Popeyes chicken.
Upcoming appearances: Thursday in the McDonald's All-American Game; April 11 in the Michael Jordan all-star game.
Recruiting: Chose Illinois over Michigan State and Cincinnati.
Wish list: "I would've liked to play for Bobby Knight if he was still at Indiana."
Football highlight: As a junior QB, had more than 400 yards total offense and scored six touchdowns in victory over Morton.
Personal motto: Practice makes permanent.
Favorite history teacher: Dan Brasic, father of Riverside-Brookfield All-State QB Tim Brasic, who is also headed to Illinois.Copyright © 2015, CT Now