Jaylen Brown made the expected announcement Thursday that he is entering the NBA, but the Cal freshman said his ambitions are broad.
“People come here to change the world,” he said of his experience at Cal, “and I’m one of those people.”
Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said Brown, a 6-foot-7 small forward, has the talent to become the No. 1 pick in the June 23 draft. Brown is a consensus top-10 pick in mock drafts.
“His biggest strength is willingness to learn and grow,” Martin said. “I think he has the potential to be one of the 10 best players when it’s all said and done.”
Brown, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, said he did not make his final decision until Thursday morning, just prior to a news conference that was scheduled the day before.
“I really hadn’t decided,” he said. “I new I was going to make an announcement. I had to – the deadline’s coming.”
The only projected lottery pick still facing the Sunday deadline for underclassmen to announce entry into the draft is Brown’s fellow Cal freshman Ivan Rabb, the Oakland native.
One source close to Rabb believes it’s more than 50-50 that he remains at Cal, but Rabb said, “I’m still thinking about it. It’s a big decision – my life. It’s been hard to figure out what I want to do. I’m just being patient with myself.”
Among the throng of people on hand for Brown’s announcement were several of his professors, whom he asked to stand. He also introduced Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the former Cal star who is one of his mentors from Marietta, Georgia.
Abdur-Rahim was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1996 draft after his freshman season, but not before he waffled back and forth on his decision, breaking into tears at one point during a news conference two decades ago.
Abdur-Rahim said Brown’s talent speaks for itself. “If his heart is in it, he’s going to do well,” Abdur-Rahim said.
A first-team all-Pac-12 selection after averaging 14.6 points, Brown said he’s all in. “I feel extremely confident and comfortable in my decision,” he said.
Still 19, Brown understands he will face a learning curve playing against grown men. He is a physical and explosive player, but critics point to his poor 3-point shooting (29.4 percent) and free throw percentage (65.4).
And while his focus will be on becoming the best player he can be, Brown said he intends to finish his college education and make a difference beyond basketball.
Mis mother, Mechalle Brown, has no qualms about that.
“I’m very proud of my son. I think he made the right decision for him,” she said. “He’ll continue his education so he’s not done. He’s very adamant about doing that.”
Brown’s interests extend well beyond the basketball court into business and social issues. One of his professors in the audience asked how he would use his platform as an influential professional athlete to help communities of color and poor people.
Brown embraced the question, and promised, “You have my word that I make sure I give back to the community.”
But a grade-school boy in the crowd pressed Brown with perhaps the toughest question of the day.
“My question is what are you going to do exactly for the people?” he asked Brown.
“That chess piece hasn’t been moved yet,” Brown said. “You have my word I’ll be here for you, man.”