Senior forward Dwayne Brown lit up the Rockdale County High Cleveland Stroud gym on Wednesday to the tune of 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 60-56 win that put Rockdale in the sweet 16 of the state playoffs. Brown was named first team All-region this year, his first time playing varsity for a full season. Just a year-in-a-half ago Brown couldn't even walk.
After a playing JV as a freshman Brown, in a testament to his talent, was set to play varsity as a sophomore.
"I was in 10th grade. You know, 10th grade about to play varsity, happy and everything. We go into our first scrimmage against Arabia Mountain and we're warming up and everything. I try do a little twist thing and my back, it hurt. I had a sharp pain in my lower right back," Brown said.
Brown would play minimally in that game. He started taking painkillers in preparation for the team's opening game, but his back was still bothering him. Brown played in just two regular season games that season.
He eventually went to the doctor to find out that he had huge back spasms, so Brown sat out a while, but it only got worse. At a practice, Brown says he attempted to run and his back started hurting. He couldn't run. He tried to play JV, but he couldn't.
"For two weeks I couldn't even walk. So I was at the house laying down for two weeks because I couldn't even walk," Brown said. "Come to find out I got scoliosis and this disease called discitis and we go through the summer and I'm still dealing with it. It takes me until I'm about to go to 11th grade. The summer it was like, ‘We're going to schedule a surgery.' I got surgery on August 22 and it was a six month recovery, I had to wear a brace for three months."
Brown sat out his junior year, but in March of 2014, he was back to playing basketball. Brown started playing AAU, playing with his trainer Dominique Cooper and with Team Eat.
"He just pushed me. Made me work hard. I had to lose weight, work hard and everything," Brown said. "I wasn't as athletic as I was when I was in 10th grade, ninth grade. I had to work on getting better. This is the game I love so I mean you just can't quit because something's in front of you."
Brown worked his butt off and shed a lot of weight.
"I could dunk still because I was tall, but I wasn't athletic, jumping and stuff. So we'd do vert training. After every workout we'd do vert training. Then we'd just get in the gym get like 400/500 shots up and we'd just work from there. And I was just losing weight constantly," Brown said.
He didn't quit, he lost weight and now he's back as a 6-foot-6 forward and one of the cornerstones of Rockdale's "big three."
"Last year being the assistant coach I used to just see Dwayne on the side, he'll come to practice everyday and he'll just shoot and shoot and shoot. I really didn't know what a gem we had in him until we saw him during the summer," Tyrone King, Bulldogs' head coach, said. "In the summer he was just fantastic. He can get to the basket and then I didn't realize he could shoot like he could so just having him added with this group here it just made a different dynamic here at Rockdale and that's why we're 21-and-7 right now."
"It's funny because during the summer we had him playing a lot of the three and he probably didn't rebound like he should have, but now he's bought into we can't win without him rebounding. He's posting double-doubles night in and night out. He had 26 and 13 or something like that [Wednesday night]," King said. "He's just upped his game and I think raised the stock because he can rebound. He can play with his back to the basket and he can also play out on the perimeter, but he's been fitting in nicely with what we need him to do and that's get it to the basket. If we needed him to shoot the three, he'll definitely come out and do it."
Brown, who's averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game according to maxpreps.com, is the third scoring option on the team behind Connor Ferrell and Jalen Jordan. One opposing coach thinks Brown is the team's most important player. King seems to share that sentiment, as he thinks Brown can play the three at the next level.
"Every camp we went to he dominated in both positions, inside and outside on the offensive end," King said.
"He could be our first option on offense and sometimes he is our first option. Versus Newton, it was a point in the game we needed scoring. When we played (Newton) here our second time they held Jalen Jordan to five points. Well, in the third quarter [Brown] knocked down three threes because teams don't see that every night," King said. "Then last night in the state tournament game, he hit 26 points, but everything was inside and he mixed in a couple baseline jumpers and he hit one three pointer here and there."
Brown is an elite all-around player. He's a good rebounder, he has a solid post game and he can score from pretty much anywhere in the court. There probably isn't a system he couldn't fit into at the next level.
"I don't count myself as a scorer much," Brown said. "My offensive game for this team is pretty much getting the ball, cutting through the lane, taking it from the wing to the basket, sometimes getting in the post, sometimes catching mid-range, sometimes shooting some threes. Any available scoring I can do."
As Brown continues to help Rockdale on its state championship run, he'll have to wait until after the season to find out where he's going and if there are any Division-1 teams that might want the All-region forward. King says there are currently some schools looking at Brown, but he hopes to get a few big schools on the line at some point down the line.
"I'm just thankful for having Dwayne. It's a blessing to have him on the team," King said. "The only real thing that I'm kind of sad about, he really didn't get those looks that other kids get during their junior year. Everything's come to form this year so whoever gets Dwayne on the next level, they'll be getting a real steal."