Mr. Basketball of Illinois 2002 | Proviso East's Dee Brown
Daniel "Dee" Brown of Proviso East, 2002's Mr. Basketball. (John Lee / Chicago Tribune / March 27, 2002)
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.