Blackford standout guard Luke Brown had his share of scholarship offers from Midwest schools.
Ball State, Toledo and Indiana State all pursued Indiana’s leading prep scorer.
But over the weekend, the 6-foot-2, 165-pound Brown surprised some when he announced his commitment to Stetson University, a Division I school in DeLand, Fla., that plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference (which Louisville’s Bellarmine University recently joined).
Brown said the reason for his choice was his instant connection with Stetson coach Donnie Jones, who has championship pedigree. Jones was an assistant coach under Billy Donovan on Florida’s back-to-back national title teams in 2006 and 2007. From there, Jones went on to head-coaching stints at Marshall and UCF, where he recruited and developed future NBA big men Hassan Whiteside and Tacko Fall.
“He came off just like a very nice, good human being, someone that I feel comfortable like just talking to on a day-to-day basis, not only about basketball but about other things,” Brown said. “Just the way he talked about how his team is like a family and how he has them over (to his house), so those were some things coaching-wise that I really liked about him.”
Jones, who is 149-145 in his coaching career, is entering his second season at Stetson. Last season, Jones led the Hatters to a 16-17 record and a 9-7 mark in A-Sun play.
“The way that they play, I loved a lot,” Brown said. “Like a pro-style offense with a lot of pick and roll, so I felt like that was a place that I could really thrive, not only on the court, but I felt like the coaching staff could put me at the next level after that, where I want to go and where I want to make my dreams.”
Brown does have some Florida ties. His father, Ted Brown, played college basketball in St. Augustine, Fla., at Division II Flagler College. Ted, like his son, was a point guard, but the similarities ended there.
“He wasn’t much of a scorer,” Brown said. “He was more of a bring it down and pass it. He told me that his coaches used to yell at him and tell him to shoot the ball more. We’re not the same in that way, but he’s definitely helped me a ton throughout basketball.”
Brown’s family took a vacation to St. Augustine last month, and during the trip, father and son made the 45-minute drive from there to DeLand to check out Stetson’s campus for an informal visit.
“I walked around a little bit by myself because obviously we can’t be in contact with any of the coaches or anything,” Brown said. “So I just walked around got a feel for the campus, saw some things, kind of got to peek in and see the gym a little bit.”
Brown said he’s looking forward to making his official visit to Stetson once the NCAA lifts its recruiting restrictions due to COVID-19.
“It will be more like a celebration of me getting down there and getting to meet everybody,” Brown said. “I think that will be pretty cool.”
Brown, who averaged 32.3 points last season and 35 points as a sophomore, sits at 2,016 career points, more than 1,100 shy of Damon Bailey’s state scoring record of 3,134 points. He said his main goal this summer has been getting stronger. Mornings have been spent waking up at 4:30 and lifting weights with a former high school teammate and Blackford football player, Dalton Willman.
“He’s really big into lifting and with these programs,” Brown said. “So we’ve been doing usually about three times a week, 3-4 times a week I’ve been going with him.”
Brown feels like the increased strength has helped him during summer AAU basketball play, where he’s played on the Under Armour Team D-1 Indiana with Marion guard Jalen Blackmon and Silver Creek forward Kooper Jacobi.
“I really feel like if I can get a little bit more athletic and a little bit stronger, and try to put on some weight, that can really help me for the next level,” Brown said. “I can see that it’s already really helping me throughout AAU, being stronger.”
In addition to developing for college, Brown said his main goal as a senior is to lead Blackford to a state title. The Bruins won their sectional in March before the season was cut short due to the pandemic.
“Coming into this season, I think that we’ll be fired up and ready to go to try to redeem ourselves, if we end up having the season,” Brown said. “Hopefully, we do.”
Losing the additional playoff games also hindered Brown’s chances to break Bailey’s scoring record. Brown, who also lost seven games as a freshman due to a leg injury, would need to average more than 37 points and appear in all of his games as a senior to break Bailey’s mark.
“It doesn’t bother me a whole lot,” Brown said. “I’m not really chasing any record or anything. I’m just trying to win as many games as possible. If I could chase the state title, that’s my goal, and I know that’s my team’s goal.”