For the second time in a week, a prominent Pac-12 player has had team issues.
In Westwood, it was Reeves Nelson amidst and adding to UCLA’s troubles. The enigmatic forward was suspended and reinstated in a matter of days (and one embarrassing loss) and promptly missed the team’s flight to Maui. The Nelson situation is beginning to be indicative of some larger issues in Ben Howland’s program, something we’ll learn far more about as the season develops.
Such is not the case in Eugene, where Jabari Brown – a highly touted freshman – has abruptly left the Ducks.
News of this broke Sunday afternoon and was later confirmed by a school spokesperson that the freshman indeed left the school, his future unknown.
On the surface this would appear to be similar to UCLA’s goings-on: dynamic albeit mercurial player with a history of basketball success and attitude flags abruptly leaves the team.
But unlike UCLA, where the smoke is hinting at a fire, Dana Altman has simply lost the mercurial star. Brown’s departure is a reflection on Brown and not Altman’s program. Take this into consideration:
Brown’s prep career consisted of three high schools. He began at Salesian-Richmond before leaving to join Findlay Prep in Henderson, NV for his junior season. Then, mid-season at Findlay, Brown changed his mind and headed back home, enrolling in his third high school, Oakland High. That is to say, this ain’t Jabari Brown’s first departing rodeo.
And while this is a blow to Oregon as a basketball team, I think it’s a sad indication of the poor leadership and mentorship surrounding the young man. This, by way of disclaimer, is a distant outsider’s observation for which I have no inside information by which to substantiate. That said, the entitlement and lack of commitment displayed by Brown and other prep stars is not a recipe for success. Luke Winn elaborately documented this earlier this summer with a phenomenal analysis of top-100 recruits, decommitting, transferring, and the like. Read it here.
Winn put numbers to the anecdotal conversation, showing us that the average top-100 recruit in Brown’s class (2011) attended 1.69 high schools. The high school swapping led to an increased likelihood of deommitting and subsequently transferring. The increase in transfer odds? Nearly double the chances they stay put.
What we learn from Winn’s study and Brown’s departure is that this is not an isolated event. It’s an unfortunate trend. One that doesn’t help students or athletes.
So while the Ducks find themselves in a difficult albeit common situation, the concern should be focused on Brown. Where he goes from here and how he can grow and learn as a young man. His talent notwithstanding, he has some growing up to do.
And in the mean time, all eyes will be on Ben Howland’s Bruins; breaths held with each faltered lead and missed bus. We all grow up someday.