Tornadoes’ MJ Brown looks to add to trophy case with top award, title
By: By MIKE HUTCHENS, Messenger Sports Editor
Class A’s reigning Mr. Basketball, Union City’s Brown was named today as one of three finalists for this year’s award that will be presented at the conclusion of the single-A boys’ state championship game on March 15 in Murfreesboro.
Brown joins three-time finalist DeMario Williams of Culleoka and Reginald Buckner of Manassas as the top contenders for Class A’s most outstanding player honor. He will look to become just the eighth player in the 23-year history of the Mr. Basketball award to be a repeat recipient and could give the Tornado program three straight winners after former teammate and current UT Martin standout Marquis Weddle was so honored in 2006.
Former UCHS standout Stanley Caldwell was one of those to earn back-to-back honors of the prestigious honor when he won in Class 2A in 1991 and ’92.
Brown is hopeful of doing double-duty come mid-March as he attempts to lead unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Union City to a second state title in three seasons and fifth in the school’s illustrious roundball history.
The silky-smooth 6-1 point guard was a sophomore starter on the Tornadoes’ 2006 Class A championship squad and made the all-tournament team in a support role to Weddle, who became his school’s all-time leading scorer in that memorable campaign.
This year, Brown is not only the brightest of several stars in UC’s show but also the unquestioned leader and the main cog in the Twisters’ high-octane scoring machine.
A playmaker in every sense of the word, he averaged 20.2 points, six assists and 3.6 steals and 3.4 rebounds during the regular season while playing just over 22 minutes per-game. In 27 pre-tournament contests, Brown shot 52.6 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the 3-point line, scoring in double figures in 26 of 27 games and making at least one 3-pointer in all but two outings.
His assist-to-turnover ratio was three-to-one and his numbers certainly would’ve been much more inflated if not for 14 of Union City’s games being decided by 20 or more points and his minutes limited because of those blowouts.
Brown’s best performances, however, have been saved for the Tornadoes’ toughest competition.
In 13 regular season games against either state-ranked 1A opponents or foes from larger classifications, his scoring average has gone up to 24.2 ppg.
He’s still dished out six assists per-game, with 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals in those contests. Also telling is that his shooting percentages — both from 2-point and 3-point range — have been relatively unchanged at above 50 and 42 percent, respectively.
Though admittedly biased, UC head coach Shane Sisco calls Brown “the most complete player I’ve ever coached.”
“He’s just so skilled in so many areas,” Sisco said. “He handles and distributes the basketball, he rebounds, he leads us in steals. He’s a true point guard in that he often looks to pass instead of score, but if we need him to — and we have at times — he takes on a scorer’s mentality.
“Probably the ultimate compliment that can be paid to a player is that he makes everybody around him better. He does that for us. He’s a leader, more so in his actions than verbally, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s deserving of both being a Mr. Basketball finalist and a winner again.”
A McDonald’s All-American nominee, Brown has continued his impressive play in the postseason, averaging 22 ppg and six assists while leading the Twisters to the 14A tournament championship and a 30-0 record heading into Friday night’s regional quarterfinals against McKenzie. He had his third 30-point out of the season Monday when Union City beat No. 2-ranked Humboldt for the third time this season in the district title tilt.
Brown’s competition for Mr. Basketball this year will come from Williams for a second time and Buckner.
Williams, is a 6-4 point guard who averages 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 3.2 steals per-game. He had scored nearly 2,000 career points at the end of Culleoka’s current regular season and has already signed with Middle Tennessee State University, where he could play football, too.
The 6-8 Buckner is a swingman who averages 17 points and 11 rebounds for the fourth-ranked Tigers.
He reportedly is drawing interest from Tennessee, but is just a junior.
Two other rural West Tennessee players are also up for the honor in their respective classifications as Milan’s Chantel Poston is a finalist for Miss Basketball in 2A, while Justin Blake of Dyer County is among the final three for the Class 2A Mr. Basketball honor.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.