Nov. 20, 2009
QUEENS, N.Y. -
The beginning of the 2009-10 men's basketball season is underway and the Red Storm's junior college additions have already begun to leave their marks. In two games, JUCO recruit Justin Brownlee is averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds coming off the bench. Brownlee is among four recruits for the Red Storm and one of two junior college players that have been added to the roster for 2009.
"It's been a long journey, full of frustration at times," said Brownlee. "But I'm just happy to be here at St. John's."
After a couple of pit stops along the road, Brownlee has found his way to the Division I level of NCAA basketball. Before landing in New York, Brownlee, who is originally from Tifton, Ga., would spend a season at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and another at Chipola Junior College in Mariana, Fla. In mid May, Brownlee would ink his ticket to Queens, N.Y. where he would get his first shot at Division I and the BIG EAST Conference.
As a senior in the state of Georgia, Brownlee averaged 20.5 points per game, enough to merit him the Tifton area player of the year and a first team all-state selection.
Brownlee's play caught the eye of schools such as Kansas, Arizona, and Florida State. But his academic ineligibility would force him to play elsewhere. He would have to excel at the junior college level before he could suit up for a Division I team. Brownlee starred for the CCSF Rams averaging nearly 20.0 points per game and earning all state JUCO honors. Brownlee's next destination would be Mariana, Fla.
He would encounter success and similar results at Chipola Junior College. Brownlee's 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds helped earn the Indians the top ranking for the latter half of the NJCAA season.
Alongside several other 09-10 touted recruits, the team would take a third place finish in the NJCAA tournament. Brownlee's contributions earned him all-conference honors, but most importantly his play would catch the eye of several suitors vying for Brownlee's talent in Division I.
In May of 2009, Brownlee would join the Red Storm as a major addition to their developing frontcourt. In aid of starters Justin Burrell
and Sean Evans
, Brownlee has given the team an area of depth they had lacked in previous seasons.
"He's brought a few different things to the table," said head coach Norm Roberts
. "He's shown the ability to spread out defenses and connect on his jump shot."
The 6-7, 232-pound wing man will see time at the power forward position as well as the small forward spot. His versatility and ability to bring defenders out as well as back them down is exactly what Roberts was looking for.
Roberts feels Brownlee must begin to be able to make plays off the dribble and defend better. The transition for Brownlee has forced him to not only become accustomed to new surroundings, but develop additional parts of his game.
"The pace of the game is a lot faster at this level," said Brownlee. "It's a lot more physical also."
"I've been working on getting stronger, and I'm getting in better shape each and every day," said Brownlee. "I work on my jump shot every day after practice."
Entering tonight's game against Brown, Brownlee currently has the highest field goal percentage on the team (.543).
Getting used to St. John's and their Division I schedule hasn't provided too many problems as of yet for Brownlee but he has taken notice of the new atmosphere.
"I'm used to playing already," said Brownlee. "Since I've been here in New York, I've noticed the crowd is more exciting and there's a lot more media."
Brownlee also added that the team's 2-0 start feels good, and he is still getting adjusted to the offense.
"I keep getting better and better everyday," said Brownlee. "We all would like to make it to the NCAA Tournament."
The team hasn't left the state of New York yet this season, and faces another test tonight against Brown at 7 p.m. With forwards Anthony Mason Jr.
and Rob Thomas
out with injuries, Brownlee has received large minutes off of the bench. His cross country trek to the big city has placed Brownlee in a very favorable position.
"It's been a long journey for him," said Roberts. "He's stuck to what he's had to do, he's happy to be here and he's playing at a high level."