Greg Brown III’s Journey to the NBA

Courtesy of Greg Brown III (@gb3elite)

Imagine it’s April 23, 2020. You’re a 5-star high school basketball athlete. Tomorrow is the big day, the one you’ve chosen to make your decision on the next step in your career. The national media has almost universally placed you in the top-10 of your class. You’ve had offers from plenty of big name schools: Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Memphis, and Michigan. You even get offered a $300,000 contract to play for the newly formed G-League high school development team, the G-League Ignite. 

The choice was obvious all along though. The one offer that hasn’t been mentioned. It’s the one that you know you’re gonna take. 

This is the story of Greg Brown III. 

Now to start our story, we must go back to the beginning. Brown was born in Dallas, Texas and was raised in Austin. He comes from an athletic family tree. His father, Greg Brown Jr., played college football as a safety for the University of Texas. His mother Tonya ran track and field for Texas winning a couple of national championships for the Longhorns. Brown’s uncle, Rodrick Anderson, also played basketball at Texas with stints in the CBA and ABA afterwards. 

Competing at a high level is nothing new at the Brown household. Now it was Greg Brown III’s chance to show what he could do. He would go on to play for Vandegrift high school in Austin, TX. In his freshman year he would go on to average 17.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 3.6 blocks. A highlight of that season was his first triple-double where he would record 15 points, 14 rebounds, and 18 blocks! 

From there, he only continued to grow. He would go on to average 24.9 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 3.5 blocks throughout all of high school. In his senior year, he led Vandegrift High School to its first division title. Now, where was he going to decide to play after high school? 

All those offers from big-time college programs were nice, as well as the six-figure salary the G-League offered. However, there was something that all those other teams didn’t know. Texas had been in his ear virtually from the beginning. 

The head coach for Texas at the time, Shaka Smart, had heard about Brown early on. He decided to go to one of his games, and was impressed. From then on he’d be going to early morning practice and giving Brown advice. Smart took the time to get to know all of his family as well, talking to seemingly everyone Brown was related with. 

“They talked to my dad, my uncles, my grandfathers, every part of my family, since five-years ago,” Brown said. He continued, “It was just the relationship we built for so long, I thought it was best for me and my family to stay home.”

On April 24th, 2020, he did just that, committing to Texas. Having his support system close, being coached by Shaka Smart, and continuing his family legacy made it an easy decision to stay in Austin. 

Brown arrived ready to make a statement at his family’s alma mater. He started off on fire, and showed why he was so highly recruited. In a game on December 20th, 2020, he had one of his best performances. Texas and Brown would beat future #1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State. Brown had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the 77-74 win. 

Unfortunately, the great play didn’t last the whole season. Brown started struggling later on in the season. He became more turnover prone and his efficiency started to dip. This culminated in an outburst on March 11th, 2021. It was the first game of the Big 12 Tournament. Frustrated by a foul call in the second half against Texas Tech, Brown decided to leave the bench and walk back to the locker rooms. He eventually returned to the bench, but not to the game. His team would eventually go on to win the game, followed by winning the whole tournament. Ultimately, they would fall in upset fashion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Abilene Christian University.   

After that loss, Texas decided to part ways with Coach Smart. He accepted a new job as the head coach of Marquette. So just like high school, Greg Brown III was left with a decision. He could stay for his sophomore season amid the changes or enter the NBA Draft and try to improve his stock.

On May 13th, 2021, Brown made his decision. He was going to put his name in for the draft. Even though he didn’t have the freshman year he had hoped, there was still a lot of buzz around his potential. Early projections had him going mid-to-late first round. 

On the night of the 2021 NBA Draft, the first round came and went and Brown’s name wasn’t called. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Names kept coming off the board in the 2nd round and he still didn’t hear his name. Cue President of Basketball Operations for the Portland Trail Blazers, Neil Olshey. 

Without a pick in this particular draft at his disposal, Olshey made a move to trade his way in. He would trade a future 2026 2nd round pick and cash to New Orleans to acquire the 43rd pick. With that pick Olshey would select Greg Brown III, giving Brown a new home. 

Neil Olshey seems to have a mold for draft picks lately, which is to target highly touted high school players who may have fallen in the draft but were top prospects for a reason. Those types of players include Gary Trent Jr. (8th rated prospect out of high school), Anfernee Simons (9th), and Nassir Little (6th). The strategy has paid dividends so far. Trent was traded but had enough value to land Portland Norman Powell in the deal and Trent just signed a big contract with Toronto. Simons and Little should both play key roles off the bench this season for the Blazers. If Brown can get a chance to prove he can live up to his potential, he could someday show why he was so highly thought of just a year ago.

Brown has already started to show flashes of that potential. He had some strong performances in the NBA Summer League, exhibiting a little bit of what he can become. The raw athleticism would pop immediately with his hustle, shot blocking, being a threat in transition, finishing emphatically around the rim, and hitting some three pointers as well. The signature moment of the NBA Summer League was a fast break dunk by Brown in which he went between his legs for a powerful windmill dunk. 

Greg Brown III has all the tools to become an incredibly special player. Only time will tell if he can ever reach his ceiling under the new coaching staff in Portland led by Head Coach Chauncey Billups. 

“It’s just when I step between the lines, (I’m) a different player, a different person.” Brown continued, “I just try to make sure that I have the mentality (that) whatever steps in front of me, I gotta go kill, because that’s what they want to do to me, so why not do it back?”

That’s definitely the right mindset for a young player trying to prove himself in this league.