Weber State University senior point guard Isiah Brown has not had the traditional college experience.
He transferred from Northwestern to Grand Canyon and now finds himself in Ogden with the chance to lead a freshly-established WSU team. He’s packed and unpacked many bags throughout his college career and it’s helped shape him into the player he is now.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been through probably every up and down and high and low that you could as a division one basketball player,” Brown said. “I feel like there is nothing that I haven’t seen, and there isn’t a situation that I haven’t been in, so that gives me comfort. I try to be that source of information for my teammates and teach them whenever they need it.”
Brown has always been tied to basketball. He began his walk of life in Anchorage, Alaska, which is where his father Gerald played the sport in college.
His father went on to play and coach at the professional level. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for Brown to fall in love with the game.
Although he lived in Alaska, Brown spent his summers in Seattle playing AAU basketball. Once Brown became a 7th grader and the hoop dreams began to feel like an eventual reality, the family decided that it would be best to pack up their belongings and move to Seattle full-time.
In Seattle, Brown’s name would eventually go down in the record books.
When most people think of Seattle the first few things that come to mind are usually coffee, the constant rain and the gloomy grayscale that can make a bad day feel worse.
What many don’t realize is that there is a vibrant “hoop culture” awaiting anyone who ventures into the depths of the city. Despite not having a NBA team in the area since 2008, the city thrives off basketball and a lot of that is thanks to high school competitions.
Throughout Washington state, there are 1,016 high schools. 18 of those schools –– including an all-girls school –– are members of the toughest league the state has to offer: Metro League.
Metro is where a number of guys have been shaped and developed into NBA players, but there are two schools that regularly produce the most talent.
The Bulldogs of Garfield High School and the Vikings of Rainier Beach High School are two inner city teams that have dominated the past two decades.
From the championships won to the players that went onto play division one basketball and have made the NBA, there is nothing in the state that compares to the legacy of Garfield or the intimidation of Beach.
Brown played in the Metro League but not as a Bulldog or a Viking: he was a Lion.
Brown went to the Lakeside school. It’s a private institution and has a tuition fee of $38,160. Their most notable alumni are Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates, which has led to the school seeping with wealth. However, when it comes to basketball, their history is not so rich.
In fact, the most notable player the school has produced is Brown.
In his time at Lakeside, Brown often found himself as one of the key talking points in town thanks to his scoring prowess. By the time his high school career came to an end, he was the all-time leading scorer in Metro League history, and the fact that he did it as a Lion makes it even more special.
“I take a lot of pride in being from Lakeside — representing that community and that school,” Brown said. “I’ve always felt really entrenched in that community. They always supported me, believed in me and gave me the opportunity to have an incredible career so yeah, I take a lot of pride in that.”
Rather than electing to team up with the powerhouses of the city, he did all he could to try and dethrone them. On a cold night in January of 2016, Brown scored 50 points against Garfield, yet his team lost by 22.
He stayed true to his roots, and although he never won a state championship, he did wrap up his career named Washington State’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
During that final year, he led the entire state in scoring with 33.8 points per game and was listed as a 3-star recruit. His next step was Evanston, Illinois, where he would become a freshman at Northwestern University, a member of the prestigious Big Ten conference.
During his freshman year for NU Wildcats, Brown had a solid year. He appeared in 35 games and averaged 14.8 minutes a night while scoring 6.3 points per game and the team made its first ever NCAA tournament appearance. However during his sophomore year, his numbers began to dip.
He only saw action in 25 games and was averaging 10.8 minutes a game while scoring 3.9 points a night. To put it into perspective, Brown scored double figures 11 times during his time at NU, but nine of those came during his first year on campus.
On March 17, 2018, Brown announced that he was transferring to “pursue playing options at another institution.” He then ended up at Grand Canyon University.
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Brown was forced to sit out during his first year with the program.
The following year, when he was able to play, Brown appeared in all 30 games and started 18 of them. In those games, he averaged 9.3 points per game and knocked down 33 three-pointers, which was good for second on the team. ‘
The best game of his career came in a victory over Illinois State when he poured in 21 points and knocked down five three-pointers. Brown was finding his footing.
With his confidence returning and his college eligibility nearing its end, it was clear that the smartest move for him was to enter the transfer portal. Once he did that, his name quickly began to float throughout the West coast.
Brown received interest from Pac-12 programs Oregon State and Washington State alongside Big Sky foes Montana State and Montana. In the end, Weber State was where he chose to call his next home.
“I knew a couple of days prior to when I called coach Rahe and told him,” Brown said. “I just wanted to sleep on it for a night or two and make sure, but I was really comfortable with the decision. I woke up that morning, called my dad first and we went over everything and checked all the boxes that we needed to check.”
Brown joined the program a year after it saw off it’s all-time leading scorer Jerrick Harding. Since losing Harding, head coach Randy Rahe spent the off-season reshaping the program in order to be competitive for the upcoming season. This gives Brown the opportunity to step into a big role.
Months ago, it seemed like this would be Brown’s final year of playing college hoops but that has changed due to the global pandemic. Thanks to the uncertainty that is surrounding the country, the NCAA has awarded an extra year of eligibility to winter sports: a decision Brown feels was the correct one to make.
“I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s just kind of an unprecedented time and I’m glad that they’ve extended that opportunity” Brown said. “It was something that I wanted to see happen, not necessarily just for me but for anyone that was in a situation where this has put them in a bad spot.”
For an athlete, chasing your dreams is always an incredibly exciting time but back when Brown announced his decision to attend WSU, there was not much to smile about.
A country that was already tense over COVID-19 only became more divided during the protests and rallies demanding justice for the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless other innocent lives claimed by the hands of a police officer. Brown feels that although it has been challenging to cope, this is a time of importance.
“I think, at first glance, I wouldn’t want to be a part of this age and time, but as we’ve gone through the months, we’ve all realized how big of a moment this is and how much we can do,” Brown said. “Hopefully things will begin to shift. I feel a lot of responsibility to have a voice and to speak my mind while trying to also educate those who don’t get it.”
For this generation, there has not ever been a call for change like there is right now and while Brown and the Wildcats are set to make their season debut on Nov. 25 against Adams State, it has been made clear that basketball will not be a distraction, but a platform.