Mt. Alvernia (Pa.) High senior Raven Brown will play collegiate basketball as a freshman next season, yet she's taken one of the most unusual paths to get there. After starring for her team as a junior and leading it to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Class A playoffs, she didn't even take the court as a senior. Even more peculiarly, nothing she did personally contributed to her missing out on a final high school campaign.
Rather, Brown's lost season was the victim of what school officials termed a "lack of commitment and effort" in girls basketball. That the program was disbanded after three straight conference playoff runs -- two of which ended in the WPIAL Class A finals (you can see Brown playing in one of those finals above, where she is wearing No. 32 in green) -- was a stunning turn of events.
Making matters more difficult, Mt. Alvernia officials only delivered that verdict on the school's program in late November, just before Thanksgiving. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that left Brown and the fearless few who wanted to join her on the basketball court out in the cold, without sufficient time to establish residency in another school district or to work out a cooperative agreement with the WPIAL that would have allowed them to play for a different school.
"I didn't play anywhere," Brown told the Post-Gazette. "It was tough. I did go watch some games ... I helped out at a couple Wilkinsburg games because [former Mt. Alvernia coach Barb Baldwin] is over there.
"I've been playing since I was like 5, so not playing was hard. There wasn't even an AAU team or anything like that out there because everyone was playing in high school."
Helping another program practice is not the optimal way to get noticed by collegiate basketball programs, yet it seems to have worked for Brown, who somehow managed to earn three full scholarship offers without taking a single competitive shot on the court as a senior. While the shifty guard has yet to commit to any school, she will finally get a chance to play in one of the Western Pennsylvania all-star games, nearly all of which have invited Brown despite her distinct lack of a senior resume, yet another bizarre twist in the senior's season that wasn't.
All the same, few seem to question Brown's deserving a scholarship spot, for multiple reasons. As a junior, the 5-foot-7 guard was an impressive leader at Mt. Alvernia, a development which was somewhat anticipated given her family pedigree; Brown's older sister, Renee Brown, starred at Mt. Alvernia before moving on to Edinboro University, where she started on a conference championship team that reached the NCAA's Division II national tournament.
Whether Raven Brown will reach those heights remains to be seen. If she does, the younger Brown will have done so relying almost entirely on her own self motivation and refusal to give up on her dream of playing college basketball.
"It will be nice to finally get out on a court and play in a game," she told the Post-Gazette.