MJ will pass on scholarship for shot at big-time

MJ will pass on scholarship for shot at big-time
MJ will pass on scholarship for shot at big-time

MJ Brown drives to the basket during Union City’s victory in the Class A state championship game over Manassas in March. Brown has narrowed his college suitors down to Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
MJ Brown has apparently decided to forego the certainty of today for the promise of tomorrow.
Brown, the two-time Class A Mr. Basketball who led Union City to state championships twice in the last three years, says he’ll walk-on at either Tennessee or Western Kentucky in hopes of earning a scholarship rather than signing a letter-of-intent with one of a handful of mid-major colleges to have extended offers.
Brown still must choose between the Volunteers and Hilltoppers, though, and says he plans on doing that by sometime next week at the latest. Brown has visited both campuses in recent weeks after deciding not to sign with either UT Martin or Southeast Missouri despite originally narrowing his college choice to the two Ohio Valley Conference schools.
Tornado head coach Shane Sisco confirmed — in a conversation with WKU assistant coach David Boyden Monday — Brown’s claim that Western would give the UCHS prep standout a scholarship for his sophomore year if he walked on at the Bowling Green campus this fall as a freshman.
Sisco has also been in contact with the Vols via assistant coach Steve Forbes, but could not confirm that Tennessee, too, had guaranteed Brown a scholarship in two years if he paid his own way to the school next season.
The courting of Brown by more than a half-dozen schools and his interest and ultimate decision to play in a big-time program has dragged on for six weeks after he led Union City to a perfect 37-0 season and the school’s fifth boys’ state championship.
He told The Messenger on Monday he would’ve liked for the ordeal to already have been settled but is satisfied that his decision will work out for his best interest in the long run.
“I wanted to sign a scholarship from the beginning, but I want to play in a major college program, too, and this is the only way I can do this right now,” said Brown, who averaged 20 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds per-game his senior season. “They told me at Western if I came there I would get a scholarship my sophomore year.
“I liked both campuses when I visited. I was familiar with the coaching staff at Western because their assistant coach had tried to recruit me at Eastern Kentucky when he was there before. They play a style a lot like we played here at Union City. And I liked everything about the campus at UT. I like the situation there because the coaches told me they were looking for another guard, and they play uptempo, too. I think I would be comfortable and happy at either place.”
Brown had made that same comment earlier when he said he’d choose between UTM and SEMO.
He claims to still have a soft spot for the Skyhawks, saying, “I really like Coach (Bret) Campbell.”
Both WKU and UT seemingly have situations in which Brown might fit into their respective rotations and vie for playing time.
The Hilltoppers — like the Vols a Sweet 16 team in last year’s NCAA Tournament — have a returning backup point guard and recently signed a junior college playmaker. Boyden though, told Sisco Monday that Brown would start on even ground with those two for playing time.
Tennessee, meanwhile, which had its point-guard shortcomings exposed late last season, recently kicked off part-time starter Ramar Smith and signed two players for the position, including Bobby Maze, who played at Oklahoma for a year before going to junior college, and touted incoming freshman Daniel West.
Sisco’s opinion of Brown’s decision to trade the security of getting his college schooling paid for from the beginning for possibly a shot at a bigger stage mirrors that of many with interest in his star player’s future.
“When you pass up seven or eight different opportunities to sign a scholarship to walk on someplace else and say you’re initially going to pay your own way, it’s essentially rolling the dice,” the Union City coach said.
“I know it’s important to MJ to go to a good program that’s established nationally, and he’s apparently narrowed it down to two good institutions in Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
“Just like everyone else who cares about him, I just want him to go somewhere where he can be successful and where he’ll have the best opportunity to get the most playing time as well as getting a good education. Wherever that is, I’ll be happy for him.”
Sisco said in addition to UTM and SEMO, Brown had received scholarship offers from Tennessee Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Murray State, while East Tennessee State, UT Chattanooga and Southern Methodist University had also reportedly indicated they would offer financial aide for Brown to join their respective programs.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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