It’s good to be home, again

By Ryne Nelson

It’s good to be home again. In my hot, stuffy, second-floor room, an idea bursts into my brain. I feverishly search through the reams of old newspaper clippings in my bottom desk drawer.


Finally, I pull out a beige file folder with the thickness of a half-pound steak burger. I tear through its contents – girls’ soccer recaps, badminton columns, boys’ volleyball box scores.

Finally, after a couple scrambling minutes, I find what I’m looking for.


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This is a basketball story. Growing up, professional basketball was the only sport I knew.

I recognized stars only at the highest level. It was Jordan, Malone and Kemp, not Jamison, Bibby and Pierce.

But there was another world out there. A growing world – to be most precise – and it wasn’t college basketball.

In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves changed the game. They drafted a scrawny, 6’10” high schooler named Kevin Garnett with their fifth overall selection. Other franchises saw the enormous upside of selecting players fresh out of high school and began to follow suit.

Turning point.

I began to realize the fresh excitement and tremendous hype the NBA created at the high school level. My game was talking to me.

With the high school game, there was the promise of discovery – that maybe the next big thing would be on the back page of your sports section.

I started to follow high school basketball so I could find the next Jordan before anyone else.


In a beige file folder, I pull out a copy of the March 31, 2002 Chicago Tribune Sports section, stashed safely away from my sophomore year in high school. I turn to the back page.

A picture – for the first time ever – fills my head with more than one thousand words.

It’s Daniel “Dee” Brown.

Noticeably skinnier, Dee dribbles a ball in his bed. On his shoulders is a blue Isiah Thomas throwback jersey – Detroit, No. 11. He dons a white headband with an embroidered number “11” between his eyebrows. A large chain with a cross swings from his neck.

His room is bare except for a wood closet supporting countless trophies from his childhood. There are no posters on his wall. His trophies are the only decoration.

This is Dee Brown before the national title game, the Sports Illustrated cover and the NBA Draft. This is Dee Brown before America knew his name.

This is Dee Brown at 17 years old.

“Tenacious Dee” reads the headline. I remember saving the paper when Illinois high school coaches and media voted Brown the state’s 22nd Mr. Basketball. I thought, “This guy could be next!”


June 8, 2005.

ESPN’s Andy Katz breaks the news.

Ten minutes into the first game of pre-draft camp Day 2, Brown fractured his fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He was trying to play the point.

In the next 10 hours, Illiniboard exploded with 81 posts, all basically echoing the same sentiments: “That stinks”, “That’s just HORRIBLE!”, “I am just awestruck.”

Northwestern Medical Center doctors completed his surgery. They said Dee’ll be off the court for at least two months. Plain and simple. Case closed.

This weekend, Dee’s story will be long over, right?

The Spurs host the Pistons in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Sunday; you can bet I’ll be watching. And, in the solitude of his Maywood home, Brown will be tuned in as well.

For the first time in months, Brown will have the unexpected pleasure of relaxation. He can put back on the Detroit No. 11 throwback and watch basketball at its highest level.

The level he’ll have to wait at least another year to reach.

Brown finally no longer has to worry about pressure, rumors or beef with his coach. And, most importantly, no longer does he have to worry about others worrying about him.

It’s good to be home again.

Ryne Nelson is a sophomore in communications. His column appears on Friday. He can be reached at [email protected].