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Next step a big one for Brown

Former Panther, ’Cane prepares for play in Israel

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POSTED: July 28, 2014 11:52 a.m.
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Long County High School alum Rion Brown is getting ready to join a team at the top level of Israel's professional basketball.

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One of the things that sticks out about Tel Aviv, Israel, to Rion Brown is its weather.

The former Liberty County High School and University of Miami basketball star recently researched Israel’s largest city in preparation for his move there. According to world-climates.com, average temperatures are at least mild all year long in Tel Aviv, never getting below the upper 50s Fahrenheit. Summer brings temperatures regularly into the 80s.

Tel Aviv’s climate rings familiar for Brown.

“The weather’s just like Miami,” he said Thursday in a phone interview with the Courier.

The basketball climate there also is favorable, especially for the former Panther and Hurricane. The Israeli team Brown recently signed with, Hapoel Tel Aviv, plays in the Winner League, the country’s highest level of basketball. Seth Cohen, Brown’s agent, said the league doesn’t take too many rookies, putting Brown in select company already.

The opportunity to go to Israel emerged out of the recent NBA Vegas Summer League. After getting a chance with the Charlotte Hornets’ squad there, after going undrafted following his college career, Brown made waves. He averaged 6.3 points and two rebounds per game, in addition to throwing down a dunk in one contest that got him featured in video on NBA.com.

“It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while, just to be on that stage in front of NBA coaches and scouts,” Brown said.
“We get the opportunity, and Rion just made the most of his minutes and really opened up NBA eyes that before that had not looked at him,” Cohen said.

Two NBA teams, Charlotte and Boston, offered Brown the chance to go to their preseason training camps. However, with no guaranteed roster spot or contract from either opportunity, Brown and Cohen looked elsewhere.
Cohen praised Brown’s “maturity beyond his years” in understanding what a player’s time frame is for success.

“To make the most of it, you have to capitalize and make the most of every year,” Cohen said.

Rion’s dad, Tico Brown of Hinesville, understands that thinking. Tico played professional basketball across the world, including stints with teams in Belgium, Venezuela and Switzerland. He said Thursday that he wants his son to enjoy every minute.

“You just don’t realize how fleeting it is,” Tico said.

So when Hapoel Tel Aviv came knocking, Rion Brown opened the door. The team was willing to lock in Brown for two years, Cohen said. However, Cohen negotiated a one-year deal — financial terms weren’t disclosed — with an eye on “another go-around next time” with the NBA.

Cohen said the same NBA eyes that Brown opened in Vegas will be watching him in Israel as well. Hapoel Tel Aviv has put several players into the NBA, he said, and is coached by Oded Kattash, the first Israeli drafted by an NBA team. However, before he had a chance to play, the NBA was locked out in its 1998-99 season due to a labor dispute. Kattash stayed put and became a star point guard in European play.

Brown is expected to be one of Hapoel Tel Aviv’s top options on offense, the agent said.

“They are very excited about Rion,” Cohen said.

Brown will join the team during the third week in August. He’s received advice from Tico about playing overseas and how great of an experience it is.

“It’s something that kind of matures you a little bit and helps you transform yourself. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

 

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