It's Markel Brown's first time away from home on Christmas. He tweeted that out on Christmas Eve. He seems to have compensated for that by handing out more gifts to those he's closest with, as he told the Times.
Things have not gone as he had planned. After being taken by the Nets at No. 44 in the Draft, with a pick purchased from Minnesota for $1.1 million, he's had some bad luck. He broke his hand in the summer and then was stuck down by a stomach virus in China. He lost valuable time and hasn't played as much as his fellow rookie, Cory Jefferson. One reason for that is Jefferson was pressed into service as frontcourt players got hurt or took rest days. The swingman position has been healthy.
He's averaging 1.9 points and 5.4 minutes so far, playing in seven of the Nets' first 27 games, most of the rest he's spent in street clothes. He and those who helped go from a poor kid in Alexandria, LA, spoke this week after he was named the Central Louisiana Athlete of the Year. He was chosen by his hometown paper, Town Talk, whose Bob Tompkins interviewed him.
"if he hangs around there long enough, he'll figure out how to get more time on the floor," said Butch Pierre, who recruited him for Oklahoma State where he not only secured Big-12 recognition but graduated in four years. "If he sticks around long enough," said Pierre, "he'll be another human highlight film at the NBA level."
Brown told Town Talk that he considers his time spent as a reserve with the Nets like the time he spent as a backup when he was first at Peabody High School in Alexandria, then again during his first two years at OSU.
"It's like it was at those times in high school and college then when I had to sit back and evaluate and be a role player, but always staying prepared to play — you never know when your name's going to be called," he said. "It's always tough as a competitor to be waiting, but I can't let that stop me from working hard."
Brown also said the last pro athlete to make it from Alexandria, major league outfielder Juan Pierre, had given him a call on a few occasions.
"He told me he was pulling for me and he was telling me to stay focused and keep shooting for the stars," said Brown. Raised by his grandmother amid a youth that saw his mother die from an aneurysm and his father die rescuing people from a burning house, Brown understands giving back. He has been a willing participant in the NBA Cares program, working with autistic children and other youngsters with disabilities as well as doing some reading in schools.
"It makes me feel good," he said, "and hopefully it impacts their lives more than it does mine."
- High-flying Markel Brown Cenla's Sportsman of the Year - Bob Tompkins - Alexandria Town Talk