Kendall Brown continues to rise in the rankings as one of the top players in the Class of 2021.
With that status, the Cottage Grove, Minn. native and five-star guard at Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) feels strongly about being a role model as a prominent young black athlete. He wants to help support and uplift communities in the Twin Cities.
“We have to use the platform that we have,” Brown told the Star Tribune. “A lot of people look up to us. We have to use it in a positive way. We’re showing that if we give back everyone else could be giving back, too.”
Following the death of George Floyd while being detained by Minneapolis police, Brown was frustrated that the rioting took away from the peaceful protests and donation drives that people were involved with locally.
“There are other people just trying to bring us down," said Brown, who recently helped to collect food, clothing and supplies for families in St. Paul.
Saturday afternoon outside of Concordia University’s gym, Brown was a part of Athletes Helping Families donations drive, a joint effort with Macalester College, Rip City Basketball and the Salvation Army. Brown’s older brother and UW Milwaukee forward Courtney Brown, Jr., Minnehaha Academy star Jalen Suggs and other local athletes joined hundreds of volunteers.
“To see everyone coming together like that is great,” Brown said. "I just want to keep encouraging others to help out, and have the kids who look up to us help out as well.”
Brown narrowed his list to 10 schools last month: Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Illinois, Kansas, Marquette, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State and Virginia. Seeing college basketball coaches show support for the Black Lives Matter movement for justice and racial equality, Brown said, "that's huge to know they are standing with us for sure."
After leading East Ridge to the state tourney as a sophomore in 2019, Brown moved last summer to a suburb of Wichita to attend Sunrise Christian. The prep school is located in a predominantly white community in Bel Aire, Kan. His team’s roster is much more diverse.
“I haven’t had any problems there,” Brown said. “The city where I’m at in Bel Aire is pretty friendly and everyone loves each other. We’re really big on God, loving each other and being there for each other.”
Living in Kansas was a culture shock. Looking back, though, Brown insists it was definitely worth it to transfer. He challenged himself against nationally ranked opponents. He improved his ball handling and decision making as a lead guard. One of the most athletic players in the country grew physically, too. He’s now 6-foot-8 and over 200 pounds.
“At first, it was a tough decision to go away from home,” Brown said. “But I was thinking, I’m going to go away for college anyway, I might as well get a head start. This would just get me ready for the future."
Richard Pitino and newly hired assistant Jeff Mailhot (a former Hopkins player and Iona assistant) stay in constant contact with Brown. The Gophers are selling Brown on being a similar player to former Hopkins and Gophers standout Amir Coffey, now with the Los Angeles Clippers.
“They told me I would be like a big guard who could initiate the offense for them,” Brown said. “Just use my passing ability as an advantage and everything. [Pitino] has been recruiting me a lot recently ... That means a lot being from here and the love they are showing me right now."
ESPN updated its rankings Monday to list Minnehaha Academy big man and Gophers target Chet Holmgren as the No. 1 player in 2021 after Johnathan Kuminga reclassified to the 2020 class. Brown, the second best player from Minnesota behind Holmgren in 2021, is ranked No. 16 overall.
Brown was ready for a breakout summer with MoKan Basketball, but the Nike EYBL season was cancelled with concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Waiting to see what happens to the AAU season, he'll continue to train in Minnesota to prepare for a bigger role at Sunrise next season.
“I was hoping they would try to extend it as far as they can, and we would have an AAU season,” Brown said. “But I’m definitely trying to get stronger and put on more weight. Just getting ready for the high school season and my senior year.”