5:00 PM PDT, March 20, 2013
Sometimes teenage athletes can be very stubborn and don't want to listen to suggestions from their father, even if they play basketball and he's a coach in the NBA.
Elijah Brown, a standout senior guard at Santa Ana Mater Dei and the son of former Lakers coach Mike Brown, was participating in a camp several years ago when his father approached with some advice.
"I talked to him about a few things," Mike Brown said. "He didn't want to hear anything. It took everything in his power not to walk away. He goes and sits down and an AAU coach talks to him. I went to listen and [the coach is] telling him the same things, and he's looking at the guy in the eyes and saying, 'Yes. Yeah, coach.'"
If there were a "silver lining," as Mike Brown puts it, to his firing as Lakers coach last November five games into the season, it was the chance to reconnect with his oldest son, Elijah, who has benefited from his father's encouragement and commitment to become one of the best high school basketball players in Southern California.
He's averaging 17.5 points for a Mater Dei team that plays San Jose Mitty in the CIF Open Division championship game Saturday night in Sacramento.
The Brown-Brown collaboration has been good for everyone involved.
"Having him around for my senior year helped me tremendously," Elijah said. "We've been able to reflect with each other and embrace this last year. Every workout I've gone to, he's been there. We break down all my film in his office. He'll send me texts or assess how I played or practiced. Everything I've done basketball-wise, he's been a part of. There's more to basketball than just high school, and he's helped me understand that."
Said Mike Brown: "It's been a great experience. The older he's gotten, the more he's been willing to listen."
At first, Elijah didn't want to make the move from Cleveland, where his dad coached the Cavaliers, to Los Angeles. He wanted to stay at St. Edward High, where he was a sophomore and had lots of friends. There was talk of him staying with his mother while his father went west to coach the Lakers. But the distance was judged too far to split up the family, so he moved and joined Mater Dei last season, coming off the bench for a state Division I championship team.
This season, he became a key contributor, along with junior forward Stanley Johnson, in propelling Mater Dei to a 33-2 record. He scored 33 points in a CIF Southern California semifinal playoff victory over Long Beach Poly. He loves the weather in Southern California and said the competition has made him a better player.
He has accepted a scholarship from Butler.
"I don't think I would be where I am now or where I'm headed without having moved out here," he said. "I've been exposed to all kinds of spectrums."
It has become a family story with a happy ending, though Elijah is waiting to learn one last trick in Southern California.
"I still haven't learned how to surf," he said.
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