Centennial freshman Troy Brown is the real deal

I had heard and read all the glowing reviews of Centennial guard Troy Brown before heading out to watch the Bulldogs host Bishop Gorman on Friday night.

Things like the No. 1 freshman player in the state, if not the country. The next great prospect to come out of Nevada following in the footsteps of Gorman’s dynamic junior forward duo of 7-foot Stephen Zimmerman and 6-10 Chase Jeter, both of whom — barring injury — are potential NBA lottery picks.

I’m always a little leery when I hear such hype. I remember all too well during my days covering preps in southern California hearing much the same chatter about players like the Verbum Dei freshman combo of Zan Mason and Renaud Gordon as well as Schea Cotton, the first sophomore to be named Cal-Hi Sports’ state Division I Player of the Year at famed Mater Dei High in Santa Ana. And they starred while playing in much more competitive leagues. None turned out to even be college stars. And none of them made it to the NBA.

But midway late in the second quarter of Centennial’s 80-64 loss to the Gaels, I went over to MyLVsports.com videographer Barry Wong, already a big fan of Brown, and gave him this opinion: “Troy Brown could start for UNLV right now.”

I wasn’t kidding either. Other than San Diego State’s Xavier Thames, the frontrunner for Mountain West Player of the Year honors, or New Mexico’s steady Hugh Greenwood, I’d put Brown in the lineup over any other point guard in the league.

And, he’s only 14.

I can see why the Rebels were the first to already offer Brown a college scholarship a few months ago. It’s just a matter of time before he receives a whole lot more.

The long-armed 6-foot-5, 190-pound Brown is an outstanding passer with excellent vision and basketball instincts who gets the ball in the right place at the right time. He finished with a game-high 18 points, 10 rebounds and was credited with three assists – it seemed like he had more – despite being the focus of a Gaels backcourt that has two talented and proven seniors in Noah Robotham and Obim Okeke, both of whom will be playing college basketball some place next fall.

Brown sank 3-pointers, had dazzling no-look passes and slammed home some dunks. But there was much, much more to be impressed with.

My favorite play, which can viewed in the highlight videos with this blog, came in the fourth quarter when he knifed between Zimmerman and Jeter to grab a defensive rebound, whirled and threw a 80-foot pass on the money to streaking Khalil Thompson for a layup.

Brown, who also plays for the Las Vegas Prospects travel team, also held his own on a few possessions when he had to defend Zimmerman – one of the top five prospects for the Class of 2015 — in the post, deflecting away one pass for a steal.

“He’s big and fundamentally sound,” Brown said of having to defend Zimmerman, who had six inches and about 30 pounds on him. “He’s a great player. It was tough but I got through it.”

While watching Brown play, you had to keep reminding yourself that he is still only a freshman.

“Nah, I’m just 14,” he said afterward when I asked if he had been held back a year.

Scary to think of just how good he could be three years from now. The name Anfernee Hardaway, who I got to watch play during high school at a couple of Nike All-American Camps, comes to mind.

Just as impressive as his skills on the court is the way he handles himself off it. He said his early list of colleges include Kansas, where his sister Jada, the 2013 Gatorade Girls State Player of the Year, starts at forward, Duke, Kentucky, UNLV, UCLA and … Harvard. Brown has a 3.7 GPA.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Robotham said. “He’s a really good kid too. He doesn’t talk trash. He plays the game the right way. He’ll definitely be one of the better players to come out of Nevada.”

“He’s a big-time, big-time player,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “I’m not excited to have to play against him but I’m excited that he’s from Las Vegas. It’s going to be fun to see him the next several years as he continues to get better.”

Centennial begins Sunset Regional playoff action on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. when it hosts Palo Verde. Barring an upset, it’s possible Bishop Gorman and Centennial will meet again in Friday night’s championship game at 7 p.m. at Durango High School.

Quarterfinals (All games Wednesday at 6:30)
Sierra Vista at Bishop Gorman; Cimarron-Memorial at Durango; Palo Verde at Centennial, Legacy at Arbor View.
(Semifinals Thursday at 4:40 and 8 p.m. at Durango; Championship game Friday at 7 p.m. at Durango).

Quarterfinals (All games Wednesday at 6:30)
Green Valley at Foothill; Basic at Las Vegas; Valley at Coronado; Eldorado at Canyon Springs.
(Semifinals Thursday at 4:40 and 8 p.m. at Green Valley High School; Championship game on Friday at 7 p.m. at Green Valley).

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