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Former NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown credits new Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts for getting him out of “his shell” during their time together at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy.
Brown was very close to former NC State assistant coach Larry Harris, always crediting him for playing for the Wolfpack. Harris knew to entrust Keatts with his prized recruit when Brown needed to spend a post-graduate year for the 20009-2010 season.
Brown was part of a Hargrave crew that included future college players Madracus Wade (Arkansas), Dominique Ferguson (Florida International), Shawn Kemp Jr. (Auburn/Washington), Isaiah Epps (Pittsburgh), David Chadwick (Rice) and Colton Christian (Michigan). Brown was clearly the star of the squad and Keatts turned the future NBA player loose.
“When I was at Hargrave he put me in the role of being an all-around player,” Brown said. “Because of what he did, it allowed me to do that at that point in my life.
“He gave me too much freedom actually, but it helped break me out of my shell because I was always quiet. He got the aggression out of me and made me who I am today.”
Brown went on to average 11.6 points and 5.8 assists per game during his three-year career at NC State under former coach Mark Gottfried. He was saddened to see Gottfried get fired Feb. 16, but also is hopeful for the Wolfpack’s future under Keatts.
The current players will need time to adjust to a new coach, something Brown went through himself. He played his freshman year for Sidney Lowe and then two more years under Gottfried.
“The coaching transition is as hard as you going to make it is,” Brown said. “If you think about how it won’t be good for me or things like that, or in a negative way, it will hurt you. You have to come in positive and be ready to work. You have to work no matter where you go at the end of the day.”
The two have communicated with each other about the NC State job since Keatts emerged as a candidate. Keatts coached former NCSU players Brown, DeShawn Painter, Kenny Inge and Anthony Grundy during his two stints at Hargrave.
“I always knew he was a good coach,” Brown said. “I feel like wherever he was at, he would make it work. He was a players coach and knows the right thing to say. He can make players want to play for him.”
“The NC State players better be prepared to work. You have to be prepared to play hard each and every day that you step on the court. You’ll get better while doing it.”
Brown called Keatts a gym rat and that the former Ferrum guard has a “good” jumper in his arsenal in pickup games.
“He used to play 3-on-3 with us with him, [current Hargrave coach] A.W. Hamilton and [UNCW interim coach] Takayo Siddle,” Brown said. “They would actually beat us and they’d let us hear about it. You’d definitely hear about it.”
Keatts was also good about providing tough love if the players needed it.
“He was a father figure to most because when you are at Hargrave, you don’t have anything,” Brown said. “It’s just a bunch of guys playing basketball and doing everything we had to do military-wise. He made it seem like we were at home most of time.”
Brown kept up with his former prep coach, who became an assistant coach at Louisville in 2011, and head coach at UNC Wilmington in 2014.
“It’s amazing because those were some big accomplishments,” Brown said. “I’m just happy to see him do well. He recruits the right way and plays the game the right way, and I’m sure he learned even more from Coach [Rick] Pitino at Louisville.
“He’s at a big-time school now and that’s a major story to me.”
Brown was cut by the Detroit Pistons after training camp Oct. 22, and then appeared to be heading to play in Russia, but that situation fell through. He eventually landed a lucrative contract with Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association on Dec. 8. He played out the season and returned to play with the Grand Rapids Drive in the NBDL, recently scoring 26 points in a 108-103 win at the Greensboro Swarm on March 18. Brown got to play against Anthony Barber, who had 16 points, plus the Swarm have his former Hargrave Military Academy teammate Wade.
“I loved it out there in China, as it was a great experience and I got to see the world,” said Brown, who is from Roswell, Ga. “It’s so much different over there. I’m just trying to be an NBA player, back in the D-League and working it out.”
Brown looks forward to seeing NC State turn into a good consistent program.
“Guys just have to stick together,” Brown said. “It’s tough for me to sit here and say I wouldn’t want Coach Gottfried to still be the coach still because I love Coach Gottfried with all my heart. I don’t even know what the situation was.
“I wish Coach Gottfried the best and I wish Coach Keatts the best. Everybody knows Coach Keatts and he’ll be a great recruiting coach and players coach.”
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