CHICAGO — Only Jabari Parker knows how Kezo Brown feels.
Brown, a freshman point guard, joins the Milwaukee Bucks rookie as the only two Simeon Career Academy players to ever suit up on the varsity team as freshmen in head coach Robert Smith's 10-year tenure.
Parker "told me over the summer that there's going to be struggles, and that you just need to get over it and work on your studies, and everything's going to be all right," said Brown, 14, of Englewood.
Brown's debut came in an 87-72 season-opening victory over Lancaster, Texas in the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday at the UIC Pavilion. He scored four points with three assists in the win, which precedes Wednesday's home opener against Harlan at 4 p.m.
Smith believes by Brown's senior year he could be "one of the top 10-15 players in the country."
"He could be an NBA player," Smith, of Chatham, said of Brown, who stands 6-foot-2 now but who still could grow a few more inches. "You never want to put that kind of label on a kid, but if he keeps working as hard as he's doing every day and keeps being humble, the sky's the limit for him."
Brown said he already has an offer from Nebraska, and he took an unofficial visit to the University of Illinois on Nov. 16 with Wolverines teammate DJ Williams — an Illini commit — to watch Illinois' game against Coppin State.
"Everybody was like a family," Brown said of meeting the Illini players, which include Simeon graduates Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, after the game. "The head coach [John Groce] is a very good coach. He talks to the team and about life lessons."
Justin Breen talks Kezo Brown:
Said Smith: "It's really good for him that he can go so early and start seeing other places. I'm sure [Illinois] would love to have him down there, but as this plays out, others I'm sure will want him too. Whatever he decides, he's going to make some coach very happy."
Smith said he slotted Brown on varsity right away because he wanted to make sure he was challenged throughout high school. He described Brown as "relentless on both ends of the floor."
"If he was on our varsity team last year when he was in eighth grade, we would have won state because of all the little things he does," said Smith, whose team lost 72-64 to Jahlil Okafor-led Whitney Young in the IHSA Class 4A sectional semifinals. "Defensively you don't have kids who can guard the ball the way he does at 14 years old. On offense, he's always attacking the rim. And if it's a ball on the floor that's loose, 9.99 times out of 10, he's going to come up with it."
Smith and Brown said that tenacity comes from his Englewood upbringing, with the Wolverines' coach noting: "He wants to get his family out of Englewood. He wants to be one of those players that people talk about that's from Chicago when it's all said and done."
Brown said he knew he had hoops skills when he scored 32 points in a game for Parker Community Academy as a sixth-grader. He was dominant in seventh and eighth grades for Ariel Community Academy and also stars for the famed AAU club Mac Irvin Fire.
Brown's goals for this season are to "win city and state." He said staying humble will be a huge key to his present and future success.
"I don't let all this hype get to me," Brown said. "I know there are people out there looking to take my spot."
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