stop
GAME DAY FEATURE: C.J. Brown
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  01/27/2009

Jan. 24, 2009

by Pete Spiewak '10C.J. Brown couldn't help but crack a smile when Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli gave him the news after tryouts his sophomore season: he made the team.

"Don't let this be the end of it," Martelli told Brown. "Work hard and see how far you can take this."

And Brown surely hasn't taken his opportunity for granted.

"I feel like I'm here for a reason," Brown said. "And I'm not going to waste the opportunity for anything."

Brown gets the most out of his days. As an interdisciplinary health services major, he has to deal with a heavy course workload in addition to the rigorous demands of playing high-level Division I basketball.

No naps. No time to watch SportsCenter. The disciplined student-athlete has a routine, and sticks to it. Class, practice, study, sleep. Repeat.

"I don't get to go out as much as other people, or watch television and lounge around," Brown said. "I have to focus and hit the books."

A partial academic scholarship requires the 5'11" walk-on to keep his grades up, but Brown takes a serious approach to his studies because he strives for the best in every endeavor he takes on.

"I've always had high expectations for myself," Brown explained. "My family expects a lot from me, too. I don't want to disappoint them and I don't want to disappoint myself."

In high school, his expectations were so high that when he wasn't getting looks from the Division I schools that he had hoped for, he was ready to give up on basketball.

"When I wasn't getting recruited by the Division I schools that I wanted, I kind of started to give up on basketball," Brown, who led Caravel Academy to the Delaware state championship game during his senior season, said. "I was going to focus on being a student and pursuing a degree."

But once Brown arrived on Hawk Hill, that all changed.

"Once I got here, I experienced the whole basketball atmosphere--how the campus was very big on basketball," he said. "And I wanted to be part of it again. I wasn't ready to give it up."

Brown made several stops on his journey. The native of Newark, Del., tried out for the team his freshman season, but didn't get called back after tryouts. He spent that season playing junior varsity and practicing with the women's basketball team, where he would work on his game in preparation for next season's tryout.

"I enjoyed [playing on junior varsity]," Brown said. "But I knew that wasn't where I wanted to be."

When he arrived at his first women's practice, the polite Brown didn't want to make the wrong impression, so he held back a little bit.

"When I first started, I didn't really know how to play," he said. "I didn't want to be too aggressive, and look like a jerk trying to show up some women's basketball players."

But Brown learned quickly that he had no choice but to give his best effort.

"Once I stepped on to the court I realized they meant business," Brown said. "Unless you brought your `A' game, you were going to get embarrassed."

Brown fondly recalls his battles with one of head coach Cindy Griffin's former players.

"Ayahna Cornish and I used to go at it," Brown said with a laugh. "We used to talk trash to each other - it was all in good fun, though. [Practicing with the women's team] was a good experience for me."

Brown will tell you that all of the time playing junior varsity and as a practice player with the women's team was worth it, not just because he accomplished a personal goal, but because he made his family proud.

"I'm doing it for them," Brown added.

So after he left Martelli's office that day, Brown's first call was to his biggest fan: his mother.

"She was in the office, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs with excitement," Brown said.

The junior gives a lot of credit to his family for always being there for him--and being the support system he needed to get to where he is today, playing Division 1 basketball. Both of his parents - his mother, Laura, and father, Carroll - are big influences on their strong-willed son.

So after college, what does Brown want to do? Be just like his mother.

"I want to pursue a career in pharmacy," he said. "My mother's a pharmacist, and I'm hoping to following in her footsteps."

In his second year with the team, Brown, who also played on Caravel Academy's football and track teams in high school, is now comfortable and confident at practice and around the rest of the team. For a while he felt like "just a walk-on," and not a true member of the Atlantic 10 squad, until Martelli called on him to enter the season opener of last season against Fairleigh Dickinson at the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Carrier Dome.

"I didn't really feel like a part of the team until the first game I got into last season and I saw how excited my teammates were that was I was on the floor," Brown said. "That made me feel like they wanted me there, and I was just one of them - I was a part of the family."

With conference play underway, the Hawks are looking for contributions from every player, Brown included. Seemingly every season Martelli's teams drastically improve when the calendar reads "January." That is a testament to coaching and the players' work ethic and eagerness to get better. And Brown, although not a regular member of Martelli's rotation, makes sure he finds ways to contribute.

"Even though I'm not playing, I feel like I still have to push others," he said. "I bring a hard-working attitude to practice every day."

He takes pride in being a positive influence on the team.

"Off the floor, I try to keep everybody smiling and in good spirits," Brown said. "I just try to be a good teammate."

Brown is willing to go the extra mile for the program. When he found out Martelli was recruiting a player he knew from home, Brown had no problem giving his own recruiting pitch.

Even in the classroom, Brown tries to set an example for others, and his work ethic rubs off on his teammates. But the humble guard from Newark doesn't like to take all of the credit.

"I've had classes with Ahmad [Nivins] and Garrett [Williamson], and we feed off of each other," he said.

It is the off-the-court relationships that help give the Hawks the right chemistry on the court to get the job done.

"I feel like we're more than a team," said Brown. "We're family - we look at each other like we're brothers. I think that is why we're able to play well together - because we are all friends off the court."