While Gabe Brown had long been considered a coveted basketball recruited before choosing #11 Michigan State, his journey to East Lansing goes far beyond just the game of basketball.
When Brown was an emerging basketball star early in his high school basketball career at Belleville, he and his father, Charles, set the goal of Brown eventually playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Not only did Charles help his son set the goal of one day playing for the Spartans, but the game of basketball was something he introduced his son at a young age and bonded with him and Gabe’s older brother Nick, over the years.
But Brown’s world was turned upside down in May of 2016 when Charles passed away at the age of 61 due to complications from a stroke. Understandably, the loss of his father caused him to question many things, including the game of basketball, which was a constant reminder of the man who taught him so much.
“My dad was everything to me, he helped me with basketball, life, he helped me become a man – he and my brother helped me become a man,” he said. “When he passed away, it felt like me and my brother lost everything, we felt that basketball wasn’t there for us anymore because he wasn’t there. He basically birthed us into the game and when he passed away, it was basically gone from us. But my brother told me to get back on the court and that’s what I did and that’s where I’m at now.”
Knowing the pain of losing a parent, Belleville’s head coach Adam Trumpour was there for Brown both on and off the court throughout Brown’s final two years of high school and said that his already strong relationship with Brown grew stronger.
“The year before his dad passed, I lost my mom unexpectedly, so I think I had a lot of empathy, not just sympathy for what he was going through,” he said. “I kept imagining that if it was that tough for me at 38 years old, what was it like for this 15-year old kid. I just wanted to be there for him however I could, there are a lot of people in the Belleville community that have supported him and his mom, his brother, his grandparents are there. But I just wanted to be there to help him grow as a student-athlete, to help him a little bit as he grows from a boy to a man and try to not fill that void but be someone else to lean on. There are a lot more people than just me who did that for him, but I’m glad that he appreciates what I could do for him.”
After returning to the court with his brother’s encouragement, Brown’s recruitment continued to take off and the day before Father’s Day in 2017, he received an offer from Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
“It feels like I accomplished my goal,” Brown told Spartan Nation shortly after receiving his Michigan State offer. “That was the goal to get and I got it.”
Brown, a 6-foot-9 wing who is regarded as a 4-star recruit, officially fulfilled the goal he and his father set when he signed with the Spartans back on November 8th.
With Brown’s college career set to begin in just a few short months, Brown believes the transition to playing the college game will be a manageable one for himself because he feels he’s improved in several different aspects of his game with the help of Trumpour.
“I’m better because I’ve pushed myself to the maximum limits,” he said. “This past season, coach Trump has been pushing me on defense and I feel that I got a little bit better. My shot got a little bit better and basically, everything is coming along really well.”
Although he believes he is ready for the college game for a number of different reasons, that doesn’t mean the 4-star signee doesn’t see room for improvement and increase his strength to prepare for his freshman season.
“I have to get better on the defensive end a little bit more,” he said. “I have to get stronger, I have to change my diet – I have changed my diet, but I have to change it to a completely different level and gain weight.”
As for Trumpour, he’s looking forward to being a fan of Brown, while also continuing to be there for support and also admitted that when Brown plays his first game at the Breslin Center, it will be an emotional moment because he knows how much Brown has overcome to get to this point.
“My role changes to where I want to be supportive and I understand to a certain degree what those coaches are trying to do with him and keep that communication, but want to support him through the tough times and let him know how proud I am of him,” he said. “I may shed a tear or two the first time I see him out on that court because I know what it meant to him and what his journey has been and the adversity he’s had to get there. It’ll be a special moment, Gabe and Davion, with football, are two kids who will always be special.”
Considering everything that Brown has gone through to reach his and his father’s dream for himself, Brown is excited for what’s next for him in East Lansing and already considers Michigan State to be home.
“Being a Spartan means everything to me, from Belleville to Michigan State, that’s my new home now,” he said. “Michigan State is my home now.”
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