To lead and serve: Talawanda’s Brown has a passion for hoops, ministry

She’s not exactly sure when basketball became a part of her life. But Addie Brown can take a pretty good guess.

“Probably when I started walking,” she said. “I remember this picture of me when I was like 2 or 3 holding a basketball. It was probably then.”

It was a long time ago regardless. Brown is a senior at Talawanda High School — a young senior who won’t turn 18 until June — and in the final stages of a prep career that will go down as one of the best in school history.

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The Braves are 9-13 this year. Not a great season, but by most accounts, it’s a team that’s overachieved. Talawanda will meet Wilmington in a Division I sectional opener at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Sycamore.

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Brown, the leading scorer in the Southwest Ohio Conference, will try to extend her career a bit longer. And when the season is over, she’ll start looking ahead to … well, who knows?

“It’s pretty sad that this could be the end,” Brown said. “But it’s been an incredible season. It’s greater than I could’ve ever imagined. We really competed this year. I’m really pleased with how we’ve played.”

Points and records

Addie Brown is a 5-foot-8 guard with a proclivity for scoring. She’s averaging 21 points per game this season. Twenty-two games, 22 times in double figures.

But it’s a late-season surge that’s brought her the most notice.

On Feb. 5 at Goshen, she threw in seven 3-pointers and 38 points in a 64-54 victory. The point total was a school record, eclipsing the 35-point effort by Margie Franklin in 1971-72.

Talawanda High School senior Addie Brown talks about her season and the Braves’ mentality heading into the Division I tournament.

How do you follow up a school-record performance? You do it again.

On Feb. 8 at home against Madison on Senior Night, Brown made seven more treys and totaled 40 points in a 54-49 triumph. She also reached 1,000 career points on a long 3-pointer and admitted it was an evening that included some tears.

“A pretty perfect night for Senior Night,” Brown said. “My whole family got to be there. My brothers surprised me, and my grandparents were there. I can’t even describe it. It was crazy.”

What made the back-to-back records even more remarkable was the fact that Brown was coming off two games that ranked among her worst in a Talawanda uniform.

In losses to Edgewood and Northwest on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, respectively, Brown was a combined 3 of 53 from the floor. She said the numbers didn’t lie. It was bad.

“It was an extreme level of frustration,” Braves coach Tom Head said. “A lot of those shots were shots she wouldn’t normally take. She was creating a lot of those shots for herself because we need her to shoot.

“Her free-throw shooting didn’t drop off. It was just shooting under pressure and off the dribble. She was fighting through some injuries, and then you start compensating. We just needed her to shoot her way out of that. That’s how shooters are.”

It’s clear that Talawanda needs her to shoot the ball. The Braves are a team that’s pretty solid defensively and on the boards, but lacks offensive firepower beyond Brown.

Her field-goal percentage is 28.2. Her 3-point percentage is 27.2. Her free-throw percentage is 81.8. She’s averaging nearly 20 field-goal attempts per game.

“There’s definitely certain games where I wish I didn’t turn the ball over as much or had better shooting games, but I don’t regret anything from this season,” said Brown, who’s averaging five rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.2 assists per contest. “I never could have imagined my teammates rising to the occasion as much as they did, whether it was rebounding or screening or boxing out or finishing layups. They really showed up.”

Talawanda guard Addie Brown launches a shot during a game against Badin on Nov. 29, 2017, in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Mark and Diane Brown ride the parental roller coaster while watching their daughter play. It’s almost always more nerve-wracking than fun when it comes to watching your kid participate in a sport, and so it is for the Browns.

“It’s a little hard to see her struggle and know that she’s capable,” Diane said. “It’s such a mental game. I think she felt a lot of pressure this season in terms of leading the team. But even in those games where she would come home maybe a little discouraged, she didn’t stay there for long.

“She’s quick to pick herself back up and say, ‘There’s another game coming,’ and realize basketball’s not the end-all. Even if she struggles, that’s not her identity. That’s not who she is. I think she was able to recognize that and get beyond the tough days.”

A family of coaches

Mark Brown started coaching Addie in fifth-grade CYO basketball. She was a fourth-grader who played up.

The Browns have lived in the Oxford area since 1991. Addie went to grade school at Community Christian School in Richmond, Ind., and Mark said her game has taken a significant step forward while playing with the Cincinnati Heat AAU program the last couple years.

Senior guard Addie Brown ranks fifth on Talawanda’s all-time girls basketball scoring list. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

At Talawanda, Addie played for Kim Richter for two seasons and then Head for the last two.

“I have always looked up to the Talawanda girls basketball team,” Addie said. “Kim Richter created this culture, and I think Tom Head has continued it.”

As much as she’s learned from her Talawanda coaches through the years, she may have learned even more at home. She’s the baby of the family and has three older brothers: Drew, Justin and J.T.

They’ve all been coaches to her in different ways. Mark and Drew coached Addie’s eighth-grade team.

“She’s had a lot of coaching from her brothers, probably more than me,” said Mark, noting that Justin and J.T. played soccer for Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., last fall. “They would all like to take the credit because they can be pretty rough on her. And instructive.”

Talawanda guard Addie Brown (left) tries to keep a loose ball away from Karlie Becker of Ross during their game at Talawanda on Feb. 6, 2016. COX MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Tough love is a brother/sister thing. Addie said she’s gotten plenty of it.

“I know they really care about me,” she said. “But they’re brothers, and they pushed me around. They made me tougher. I definitely left the court crying a lot. But it definitely made me better. When I drive the ball, I really get in there and make sure the defender doesn’t want to guard me again, give them a few bruises. That came from my brothers.”

Said her father, “The feistiness that she brings on defense and girls trying to get at her — it just doesn’t work. She has three brothers. Nice try. For me, it’s just fun to see the dynamic from the family lived out on a basketball court.”

There have been others who have helped her along the way, including former Talawanda and Badin coach Dan Purcell. He’s worked with Addie during her prep career and has been a consistent source of encouragement.

Purcell texted her before her record-setting game against Goshen.

Talawanda guard Addie Brown (14) looks to take a shot past Ross defender Katie Brehm (21) during their game at Ross on Feb. 14, 2015. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

“He said, ‘Go get your mojo back. You’re a good player. I believe in you,’ ” Addie said. “I was like, ‘Wow. Dan Purcell believes in me. I can do this.’ ”

College basketball … or not

Addie’s future in basketball is uncertain. She’s had some interest from some smaller schools and believes she could play somewhere at the next level, but does she want to? That answer requires some explanation.

“I can’t picture not playing, so if I have the opportunity, I think I’ll probably jump on it,” Addie said. “But I know that it will always be a part of me whether I’m actually on a team or playing rec ball. I’ll still be playing in some form.”

What she’s looking for, of course, is the perfect situation. That means a school that fits her lifestyle and beliefs while also wanting her to play basketball.

She’s been pondering the possibility of attending a bible college and not playing because she wants to go into some form of ministry.

Talawanda guard Addie Brown (14) brings the ball upcourt during a game against Northwest in Oxford on Dec. 20, 2014. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

“I just want to work with people and help people in some way,” Addie said. “I want to tell people about Jesus and what I believe in and my faith.”

The inspiration for such a career path came from her parents. They’ve been members of the Miami University Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ, for more than 20 years. They’re now working with Athletes in Action and deal with Miami athletes on a regular basis.

“We’re essentially missionaries on a college campus,” Diane said. “We’re talking to college students all day about life and a relationship with God. Addie sees that and wants to invest her life in people that way.”

The Browns are taking a group of athletes and staff to Puerto Rico to do some relief work during spring break. Addie is going with them.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher because I really like kids and people, but seeing my parents’ work, I can’t really picture myself doing anything else but that,” she said. “I think the coolest part for me is they get to raise a family and still really be involved in their kids’ lives. That’s what I want to do.”

And basketball? There’s no pressure to go that route, so it’s not gnawing on her. When it’s time for the next step in her life, she’s confident she’ll know which road to take.

Talawanda’s Addie Brown puts up a shot over Badin’s Grace Larkin during a game Nov. 29, 2017, in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“We’re at peace with whatever she decides,” Mark said. “She is open to play and open not to play. Her character, her work ethic, her willingness to be a good teammate … those are all pretty positive things. But the cool thing is whether she lives it out on a team or in life, it’s win-win.”

The tournament begins

The Braves are gearing up for their shot at the postseason. Wilmington is a quality team and beat Talawanda 51-42 on Jan. 22.

Addie will carry a heavy load as always, even more so now that junior guard Jazz Bennett is out with an ankle injury.

“When I sat down and saw what we had this year, I didn’t think Addie could do what she’s done,” Head said. “She’s played through injuries and illness, through fatigue, through frustration. She’s the focus of every defense, and she’s never complained once. She’s displayed a physical and a mental toughness that you don’t really see very often.”

And if this proves to be the end of Adelyn Brown’s career, then so be it. There’s always another door to open.

“There’s more to life than basketball,” she said. “But I’m really thankful for the years I’ve had at Talawanda. It’s been really fun. It’s been special.”

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