Jaylen Brown realizes not everyone understood his decision to play basketball at Cal, but he is happy after six weeks of summer school and has big plans for this season.
“I have very high expectations. I think we can win it all,” Brown said Thursday in his first interaction with Bay Area media. “We have a lot of work to do, but we have very good pieces.”
A 6-foot-7 small forward and consensus top-five national recruit from Marietta, Georgia, Brown could have attended any school in the country. By picking Cal, he raised eyebrows in the college basketball community and even among some of those close to him.
“Some were very supportive and happy, and others were very . . . I wouldn’t say non-supportive, but they weren’t the happiest with my decision,” Brown explained.
“It wasn’t as typical as how a highly recruited athlete usually goes to a much bigger basketball university. I had to make the decision for me and I felt like this was clearly my best choice.”
Brown, attending Cal’s summer bridge program for incoming freshmen and preparing for the Bears’ Aug. 13-24 exhibition trip to Australia, said he “fell in love with the campus” when he made an unofficial visit to Berkeley before making his decision after the season last spring.
Academics, weather and location all played a role in his decision to pick Cal, Brown said.
His relationship with Cal coach Cuonzo Martin began when he was a freshman and Martin was coaching at Tennessee, and fellow prep star Ivan Rabb’s decision to attend Cal also influenced his thinking.
Former Cal and NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who attended Wheeler High in Marietta two decades before Brown arrived on the same campus, shared his experience at Berkeley with Brown.
“He said to dive into being here, focus on the now. He said it will be some of the best times you’ll ever have,” Brown said. “He was a mentor of mine, but my decision was my own.”