LINCOLN — Two years ago, Shane Brown needed bodies for his Lincoln Lynx boys basketball program. The small Class C school on Highway 200 saw numbers dwindling, leaving coaches scratching their heads in search of enough players for both practice and games. Brown, however, didn’t need to look far.
His son, Nathan, was bumped to the high school program as an eighth grader that season. While many Class C schools promote students from the junior high level to elevate the competition in practice, Brown took on a pivotal role with the Lynx, starting the majority of that eighth-grade year.
“To be quite honest, he was born right into it. My wife was pregnant and he was born right into basketball season in November and it’s gone from there,” said Shane. “He was dribbling when he was 2 years old in the house and he picked it up from there. He’s caught fire and he loves it.”
The younger Brown admits to being nervous that first season, as expectations of an eighth grader starting on the varsity program continued to build. Now a sophomore, experience continues to be one of his biggest allies, but it’s also led to a much-improved confidence.
Standing only 5-foot-9 and weighing not an ounce more than 150 pounds, Brown was forced to get creative with his ball-handling, passing and shooting against bigger and stronger defenders.
“Height is a disadvantage, but I use it as an advantage. too,” he said. “I look for wide-open lanes when I dribble and I use my dribbling skills during the game. If there’s an open lane I take it. I try to use my smallness as an advantage to get to the basket. It helps.”
Smooth dribbling, slick passes and speed that leaves many defenders on the chase have certainly paid dividends in this sophomore campaign. Brown has topped 30 points on three occasions this season, with two of those 40-point outings — against Victor back in December, and against White Sulphur Springs in mid-January.
Scanning through the stat book and diving into the game film is eye-opening for many, but the sophomore speedster was ready for those performances if his team needed them.
“I knew I had a chance the way I was progressing over the years. I got better each year and started picking up what the high school game was like, how I needed to react. From last year, I knew I could easily get around the 30-point range. Forty was a pretty big step, but I knew I could do it,” he said.
“He has a good presence to get steals. He has a good eye for the ball,” added his father/coach. “He puts pressure on the guards and he’s able to get steals and he can read passes. Those steals for him, in one game he had 16 steals and 10 in the other one, those have led to good points for him. He’s able to shoot outside and get to the basket and score inside.”
In short, he’s become a complete point guard. In the three games of 30 points or more, Brown posted double-digit steals and flirted with a triple-double in a win over Victor, posting 40 points, 16 steals and eight assists. According to stats provided by the Lynx, he is averaging more than 25 points, seven steals, six rebounds and three assists per game.
Having a father as coach has also proven incremental in Brown’s improvement. The pair study game film, discuss strategy and get in the gym whenever they can. For nearly 15 years, Shane Brown has heard his son mention the same dream, one he continues to chase to this day.
“Everybody’s goal when they’re young is to get to the NBA. That’s a big thing for them. As he gets older, he starts to realize it takes a lot of work,” the elder Brown said. “College is definitely something he’s interested in and he’s thinking big — Duke, Gonzaga, he wants to take a shot at those big schools. We get him a lot of exposure taking him around the country in the summer. We take him to North Carolina, Canada, Utah, Washington, just to get him exposed to other people.”
“I’ve been to a lot of places,” Nathan added. “It’s benefited me a lot because I’ve picked up stuff everywhere I’ve went, things I could add to my game. It’s helped me tremendously. Everything I do at those camps I bring home, and it helps me and my team.”
“It’s been good. Every camp he’s gone to, he’s excelled and done really well,” said Shane. “Up in Canada he had them chanting ‘USA’ in some of the competitions. He ended up going to Australia this last summer to go play for the United States, and he played well against a lot of those older kids that are graduating seniors and whatnot.”
Nathan Brown certainly isn’t a body helping round out the roster. In less than three-and-a-half seasons, he has become one of the biggest performers, albeit partially under the radar, in Class C boys basketball. As the postseason approaches, and with a pair of 40-point performances to his name, Brown is ready to aim higher if it’s in the best interest of the team.
“If I’m on, I think I could get higher than 40, but it will be hard because teams are hard in this district. I would have to work hard,” he said.