Thank you for checking out Basketball Across Minnesota, my weekly look at some of the state's top hoops stories, from preps to pros. — Marcus Fuller
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Minnesota natives Kendall and Courtney Brown Jr. aren't the only set of siblings playing Division I basketball across the country. But there's something different about where these former East Ridge High School standouts are now that makes their journey unique.
One plays for No. 1 Baylor. The other plays for Division I newcomer St. Thomas. In other words, they're on complete opposite ends of the college hoops spectrum.
Kendall Brown is a hotshot freshman starter for the defending NCAA champion Bears, who improved to 14-0 after an 84-74 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday.
Courtney Brown Jr., a junior transfer from Milwaukee, is redshirting for an 8-7 St. Thomas team that made the jump from Division III this season.
Watching from afar, Kendall is happy to see St. Thomas doing well and starting a foundation, even with his older brother sitting out. The Tommies are "a good spot to be for him and a good fit," the younger Brown said.
Fitting in with Baylor looked easy as well for Kendall, who burst onto the college hoops scene as one of the nation's top freshmen. It's been an exciting start to the year for the Brown family back in Minnesota watching his success in Waco, Texas.
After losing several key pieces from last season's championship team, Baylor coach Scott Drew signed the program's highest-ranked recruiting class ever, led by Kendall Brown, a former McDonald's All-American.
"It's great to join a culture like this," said Kendall, who envisioned playing on the big stage when he left home to attend Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas as a junior in 2019. "Just trying to repeat and doing it with the guys we have is a really good feeling. It's just different."
When asked what he meant by different, Kendall said the Baylor program felt even more like a family with their strong faith-based culture under Drew.
"We really care about each other, and it definitely shows up on the court," Kendall said about the Bears, who started the season as under the radar as you could be for a defending national champion and a No. 8-ranked team.
Gonzaga, Duke and Purdue picked up more buzz, and each eventually held the No. 1 ranking first, but Kendall and company slowly rose to the top.
While throwing down highlight dunks on a nightly basis, Kendall jumped onto NBA draft boards as a first-round projected pick, scoring in double figures in his first eight games.
Known mostly as a slasher in high school, Kendall impressed college hoops analysts and scouts with his outside shooting, defense and passing ability, which included a near triple-double with 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in his second college game.
"I feel like any freshman coming in would want to contribute," Kendall said. "I just wanted to go out there, play my game and do what I do. I wouldn't say there was that much pressure. Expectations for myself: I want to be the freshman of the year in the Big 12."
When Kendall left Minnesota for prep school two years ago, he was a spindly 6-5 point guard oozing potential after finishing his sophomore year at East Ridge. In only two years, the younger Brown filled out into a chiseled 6-8, 210-pound sky-walking wing that not many national media saw coming.
Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren grabbed headlines as back-to-back Minnesota five-star recruits going from Minnehaha Academy to Gonzaga. But Kendall Brown, without as many accolades, signed with Baylor, who reloaded after defeating the Zags in last year's NCAA title game.
Kendall misses the days when he played with his big bro growing up in Cottage Grove and in high school in Woodbury, but he's glad they're now both part of something special on different ends of the Division I hoops scene.
"My brother means everything," Kendall Brown said. "As young kids, we did everything together. I was pretty much with him 24/7 playing basketball. We still talk to each other every day, but this is what we wanted to do. These are our dreams, so we've got to chase them."
Five Minnesotans who stood out this week:
Ayoka Lee, Kansas State
The 6-6 Byron native earned two national player of the week honors — Naismith Trophy player of the week and USBWA player of the week — after her 32-point effort (28 in the second half) to upset No. 10 Baylor 68-59 last week.
Terrence Brown, Columbia Heights
The 6-2 senior put up 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting to defeat host Hibbing 80-49 in the North Star State Hardwood Showcase title game last Thursday, and scored 28 points in a win over Brooklyn Center on Wednesday night.
Micah Young and Liban Tushar, Minneapolis Edison
The high-scoring senior backcourt exploded for 77 points and 70 points combined in wins over Hill-Murray and St. Paul Highland Park last week.
Madison Mathiowetz, Sleepy Eye St. Mary's
The South Dakota State commit and state's leading scorer had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a win at Sleepy Eye on Tuesday.
37.9 — Average margin of victory for Hopkins girls through eight games this season.
50 — Mountain-Iron Buhl sophomore Jordan Zubich's state-best three-point total in girls' basketball.
27 — Gopher Jamison Battle's double-figure scoring streak (every game the past two seasons).
Games to watch
St. Thomas men vs. Oral Roberts, Thursday, 7 p.m.
The Tommies have won two of their first three games in the Summit League, but the biggest challenge yet comes Thursday hosting Oral Roberts and All-America guard Max Abmas.
Park Center boys basketball at Osseo, Friday, 7 p.m.
The top-ranked Class 4A Pirates (7-0) led by Gophers recruit Braeden Carrington will try to avoid being the second straight upset victim for Osseo, which surprised previously No. 4 Minnetonka on Tuesday.
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Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on startribune.com/sports. Don't be a stranger on Twitter after reading, as chatting about these stories make them even more fun to share. Thank you for reading. — Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on Twitter)