by Mimi Norton/Lion Staff
Senior Jenna Brown has been playing basketball from the time she could walk, and she doesn’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t playing basketball.
Jenna grew up watching her older sister, Taylor, play, and was eager to start playing herself. “I always wanted to be like her when I was little,” she said, “so I wanted to play because she played, and I ended up really loving it.”
Jenna’s great-uncle and grandfather both coached professionally, and her dad played in high school and ran a sports agency for some time, so she’s always been immersed in the sport. (Her great uncle is Larry Brown, who was a 1964 Olympic gold medalist, and has won both an NCAA national championship and NBA title with teams he’s coached.)
The first time she started playing organized ball was in kindergarten when her dad registered her for a third grade team. “He had to fake my birth date, haha! I was the smallest one, but it was a lot of fun.”
Fast forward twelve years, and Jenna just wrapped up her last season of high school basketball as point guard. Many people don’t know that she’s the youngest student in her grade at Lovett, and often a full year younger than some of the other girls she plays against, as she only turned seventeen this past October, during her senior year.
Right now, Jenna is preparing to play basketball at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, this fall, and she’s had quite the season. In the 2017-2018 Lovett season, she averaged 24 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals per game.
She was just announced as one of five finalists in the nation for the Naismith High School Player of the Year Basketball Award, and is also a nominee for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, along with a nomination for the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Georgia. According to espnW HoopGurlz, she is the number 20 recruit in the nation.
Jenna’s teammate, senior Mary Alice Millard, said “Our whole team knows she is an incredible player but she never makes the rest of the team feel inferior. She’s one of the kindest, strongest, and coolest people I know and I’m so lucky to have played with her!”
If you were in the Glover gym back in February, you know Jenna was also named to the McDonald’s All-American basketball team. This team is comprised of 24 girls from all around the country, and they will all train together to play a game on March 28th. Lucky for us, the game is in Atlanta this year, unlike previous years when it’s been in Chicago.
The players will convene in Atlanta on the Saturday or Sunday before the game, and they’ll practice and scrimmage Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in preparation for the game on Wednesday.
Jenna said that being a part of the McDonald’s All-American game was a dream from the time she was very young, since she always watched the annual game on TV. “It just seems so out of reach when you’re little,” she said. “Not only seeing people who are older than you, but also seeing people play at that level - so it was just an incredible feeling getting chosen.”
Being her typical humble self, she also expressed that it’s another sign that she needs to keep working, because there are a lot of people who end up getting selected for the team “but don’t really end up doing anything with it.” She hopes that “it’s really just the beginning of things for me, not the end.”
She has played on a couple of different teams over her career in addition to her high school team, including AAU Basketball and, most recently a team based out of Orlando. “To play with this team, I would drive to Orlando almost every weekend, a couple times a month,” she said.
I asked her, how in the world does she manage to balance basketball with all of her schoolwork too? She replied, “At my house, my mom has always stressed ‘school first, basketball second’ so I’ve never really had to choose between them.”
During the Lovett basketball season, she’ll typically get to school, work out in the morning during her weight lifting period, go to practice after school, get home, shower, eat, do her homework, and do it all again the next day. When she’s not on the court or doing schoolwork, you can find her in the weight room or in the cold tub after practice, likely listening to Frank Ocean, her “favorite artist ever.”
I asked about some highlights of her basketball career so far, and she said that playing for Team USA in the summer of 2016 was an incredible experience. “I loved getting to experience basketball on a different continent and seeing all different styles of play that I wouldn’t see in the US.” She traveled with Team USA from the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, CO, to Zaragoza, Spain to compete with teams from around the world in the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup.
Team USA ended up taking home a bronze metal, which Jenna said was a bit disappointing - since their team had hopes to bring home gold - but nevertheless, “it was definitely a learning experience,” she said.
Another highlight has been building relationships with her coaches and teammates. “You remember some games here and there, but mostly you remember the people you have around you. I’ve made some of my closest friends through basketball, whether they be teammates, mentors, or coaches.”
I asked about her hopes for her future basketball career, and she replied that she wants to take it as far as her body will allow, because she can’t really imagine letting go of the sport. “I will continue to play as long as my spirit and body are willing,” she said. “It would be really cool to play professionally, if possible, and maybe go overseas for a bit to play.”