Miami basketball senior escaped Toledo streets to become latest RedHawks star - and a father

Miami forward Dalonte Brown scores two against Wright State during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Miami forward Dalonte Brown scores two against Wright State during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Dalonte Brown becomes 37th player in program history to reach 1,000 points

Miami basketball coach Jack Owens said it “hasn’t been easy” for Dalonte Brown, the RedHawks’ newest 1,000-point career scorer.

And when you hear the 6-foot-7 senior recount some of his personal story, you realize the coach’s assessment is an understatement.

Just six weeks before Brown was to play his first college game for the RedHawks, his 20-year-old cousin – De’Asia Wallace – was murdered back home in Toledo.

Brown knew how tough the streets in his neighborhood were. It’s one of the most dangerous areas in Toledo. His older brother was in a gang there. A kid he knew from a rival school was killed for $50.

“I come from a city where parts of it are full of violence,” he said Sunday. “A lot of times on the street it’s about family reputation and many kids have possession of guns.”

Back on Sept 24, 2017, a brawl unfolded just down from where his family lived on Macomber Street. Authorities later said it started over “trash talk” on social media.

Several dozen people gathered as girls fought in the street. The throng moved toward a house and that’s where 16-year-old Emmanuel Garner stood on the porch and fired a weapon into the crowd of onlookers. A 15-year-old girl was wounded and De’Asia died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Garner eventually was sent to prison for 21 years, but that did nothing to ease Brown’s pain.

“It hit him hard,” Lakeisha Allen, Dalonte’s mom, said Monday. “They were real close, like sister and brother. They did a lot together. They went to the movies and bowling. She’d even been down to Miami to see him.”

After De’Asia’s death, a makeshift memorial was set up where she was shot and Brown got her picture – along with her name and a dove – tattooed on the inside of his left forearm.

Makeshift street memorial for 20 year old De’Asia Wallace who was killed in September of 2017 when a 16-year-old boy  shot into the crowd during a street brawl in Toledo. A 15 year old girl was also wounded. Wallace is the cousin of Miami basketball standout Dalonte Brown. CONTRIBUTED
Makeshift street memorial for 20 year old De’Asia Wallace who was killed in September of 2017 when a 16-year-old boy shot into the crowd during a street brawl in Toledo. A 15 year old girl was also wounded. Wallace is the cousin of Miami basketball standout Dalonte Brown. CONTRIBUTED

Then 10 months later, his world shifted again.

His girlfriend at the time gave birth to their son, Dalonte Jr., or DJ as he’s known now at age 2½. And in March, Brown’s due to have a second son, Lakeisha said

“Although he’s away at college now, he tries to spend as much time as he can with Junior,” Lakeisha said.

Brown explained: “My dad wasn’t around like he should have been when I was growing up. I want that to de different with me as a dad. And every morning when I’m home, my son comes in and wakes me up. He wants to ‘go shoot’ at that little rim I got for him in the living room.”

Owens said Brown has experienced a lot of “ups and downs” at Miami and another valley came after last season when his best friend and roommate – fellow basketball player Nike Sibonde – transferred to Pitt in what became a messy breakup .

Miami wouldn’t sign a waiver for him to play immediately for the Panthers, but that dispute was made moot when the NCAA allowed everyone to play in this season that’s continually been besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miami hadn’t had a winning season in Brown’s first three years there and he contemplated following Sibande out the door.

Lakeisha urged him to stay and make the most of his final season at Miami: “I said. ‘You gotta stand tall. The spotlight will be on you, make the most of it.’

“And he said, ‘Mom, I gotcha!’”

Lakeisha’s pep talk worked.

Tonight, before Miami meets Ball State at Millet Hall, Brown – with his mom, son, two younger brothers and stepdad in attendance – will be honored for scoring his 1,000th point in a RedHawks uniform last week. Officially, he now has 1,004 points, which makes him the 37th player in Miami hoops history to reach the four digit scoring mark.

Yet, it’s another feat – and another number – that makes Brown and those around him even more proud.

“He’ll graduate this spring,” Owens said. “It hasn’t always been easy for him, but he’s really worked hard and needs just 12 hours to get his degree.”

“I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from college,” Brown said proudly. “That means something to me because school isn’t my biggest strength. I’ve had to take extra time with it.”

Lakeisha credited Owens: “Coach O told him when he recruited him that, if for some reason the (pro) league didn’t work out for him after college, he wanted him to have an education.”

Owens said Brown “bought into our vision. To see the maturity level he has now, it’s just awesome.

“He’s a guy I’m really proud of.”

Miami basketball standout Dalonte Brown and his son Dalonte Jr. CONTRIBUTED
Miami basketball standout Dalonte Brown and his son Dalonte Jr. CONTRIBUTED

‘Playing the best basketball of his career’

Brown said his mom raised him, his sister and three brothers on her own:

“She worked multiple jobs – as a home health aide, in hotels, taking care of foster kids and other stuff -- and she never got down or gave up.”

After initially playing football, he gravitated – at his mom’s urging – to basketball and first played on a portable hoop that was rolled out onto Freeman Street, the next street over.

“I’d play out there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” he said

He began to get a reputation as a basketball player with promise and that “saved” him from spiraling into the temptations and troubles of the street.

“My neighborhood helped me,” he said. “They saw the path I was on and motivated me to stay off the streets and in the gym.”

After a freshman year at Toledo St. John’s, he transferred to Bowsher High and became a 1,000-point career scorer. As a senior he averaged 22.1 po;ints per game, was second team All Ohio and named the Toledo player of the year.

He said he had a “shoebox full” of scholarship offers and eventually committed to Miami, which was then coached by John Cooper.

But a month later Cooper was fired and Brown reopened his recruitment.

Owens, a longtime Purdue assistant, was hired by Miami in April and he and his staff zeroed in on Brown, telling him he could make an immediate impact on the hoops program.

Wright State guard Trey Calvin knocks the ball away from Miami forward Dalonte Brown during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Wright State guard Trey Calvin knocks the ball away from Miami forward Dalonte Brown during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

The coach was right.

Dalonte started 33 of 34 games as a freshman, led the team in rebounds (5.4 per game) and was fifth in scoring (8.0 ppg)

He was named the All Mid-American Conference Freshman Team.

He’s now played in 103 games at Miami and started 96. This season he leads the team in rebounding (6.8) and is second in scoring (11.0 ppg).

“He’s playing the best basketball of his career now,” Owens said.

‘He’s a Miami guy now’

Brown admits when he first arrived in Oxford it “definitely felt strange. It was a different environment.” “He called me every day for two weeks straight,” Lakeisha laughed.

“I just had to adjust,” he said. “Toledo is a loud city. I’d hear police sirens there every day. But Oxford is really quiet. It’s dark at night. And there’s all those animals and stuff.”

He laughed and then traded a bit of exaggeration for a bunch of embrace.

“I don’t have to worry about anything here. It’s my escape from everything. I love it.”

It might have not have been easy for him but it’s worked out wondrously, Owens said:

“He’s a real Miami guy now…And that’s what it’s all about.”

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