"I verbally committed, but I’m definitely going there," Liberty County Panther basketball star Rion Brown said about his decision to commit to the University of Miami.
Brown came under the watchful eye of UM head coach Frank Haith after Brown expressed interest in Miami and let the coaching staff of his AAU Worldwide Renegades know. They, in turn, told Haith who followed Brown’s games throughout the summer.
"They came to a lot of my AAU tournaments and we started talking and I developed a good relationship with the coach. And after that it was a done deal for me," Brown said. "I know he can help me get to the next level. The last three shooting guards they had all went to the NBA."
Brown said he will concentrate on his senior year academically and that he wants to earn straight A’s. He said the Miami coaches advised him to work on his ball handling skills and to prepare for the school’s entrance exams. Brown said he also plans to hit the weightroom.
Brown’s parents, Lisa and Tico Brown, said they were both comfortable with the decision after they met and spoke with Haith.
"Frank Haith is a great coach and a great person, which was really important," Tico Brown said.
"Personally I got to meet coach Haith and speak with him quite a bit and met with him in Miami and I felt pretty good that we were turning Rion over to a great coach," Lisa Brown said. "I told him how I feel about my son and how I wanted my son to be with someone who was actually going to nurture him as far as his basketball abilities and help him reach the next level."
She did admit the thought of her son leaving home has her nervous.
"It is very difficult," she said. "I got a taste of that over the summer when he went to Vegas. I called him every single day, wanting to know what he was doing and I said if this is any indication of what’s to come I am in big trouble."
Tico Brown said he knew it was coming.
"I just tried to make sure to make the most of it while he was here," he said. "He’s grown into a fine young man and I don’t for see him having any problems."
He said he spoke to his son and offered advice on what to expect. Tico Brown played Georgia Tech before hitting the pro circuit for the NBA and CBA. He said Haith immediately liked his son’s playing style.
"They fell in love with him as soon as they saw him," Tico Brown said. "They realized he was capable of playing for them in the ACC. As far as they are concerned it’s already locked in."
The Browns have an official visit to the campus set for October. And they’re planning more trips to see as many of their son’s games as possible.
"Most definitely," Lisa Brown said. "And as you know we are diehard fans of basketball so most likely we will be taking quite a few trips to Miami."
Tico Brown said he told his son to stay grounded, humble and thank God for every blessing he’s received.
"This is all by the grace of God," he said. "...Our whole process when he started playing basketball was, son if you get good enough at this it can pay for your college, and if you get really good you can make a living on it. This is just step one of his process. I told him I’ve been through it and my wish for him was that he can have as much fun doing it as I did. I told him all my basketball stories and traveling around and I think he is looking forward to it."
Rion said he will focus on his last season in high school but has a lot more to play for.
"It’s a big conference, the ACC. And I always wanted to play in a big conference since I was little and watching college basketball so it’s a dream come true for me," he said.