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Former Pac-12 Star Carlon Brown Peaking in Israel

Carlon Brown is having the best year of his career overseas in Israel and could be NBA Bound as a result.

Yannis Koutroupis

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“You’ve had a nice career, but it’s not what teams and GMs are going to pay for, or what fans are going to want to see.”

Those are words no aspiring NBA player wants to here. After a successful college career and pro debut in the NBA’s Development League, Carlon Brown easily could have ignored them. But, they came from one of his closest friends, Utah State Video Coordinator Nelson Hernandez. And, while quite blunt, they were also correct. Brown went undrafted out of Colorado in 2012, spent time with the Charlotte Bobcats’ summer league team afterwards and caught on with the Golden State Warriors for preseason, but ultimately came up short of making the team. His rookie campaign in the D-League didn’t result in a call up. So, at the urging of Hernandez, Brown decided it was time to make some changes.

“That kind of stuck out to me in my mind and allowed me to have a different approach this summer going into my workout sessions where I totally changed everything about my game and about the way I approached my mentality, my stretching and just my overall focus on the game,” Brown said to Basketball Insiders. “I decided coming overseas that I was just going to be more aggressive, I couldn’t average 12 points anymore, and I couldn’t shoot under 50 percent form the two anymore. I just had to really check myself because if I say I want to be where I want to be I can’t keep doing the same things over expecting a different result. I think Albert Einstein called that insanity.”

This season Brown’s career took him to Israel, where he is playing for Hapoel SP Tel Aviv. The league features some of the best players outside of the NBA, including Xavier Silas, Tyler Honeycutt, Scott Reynolds, Rick Jackson, Laurence Bowers and Justin Harper among many others who have also gotten serious looks from the NBA.

Brown, an All-Star selection this season, is currently the league’s leading scorer with 19.6 per game on 46 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from distance. He’s also grabbing 4.5 rebounds and handing out 4.6 assists a contest – worth the price of admission, to say the least.

“The role for me this year has been to pretty much score, and to get guys open like I said once the defense starts collapsing,” Brown said. “There was a stretch where one of our better players went out due to an injury. I really had to pick up the scoring load. I’ve just been trying to do my best to be aggressive because we don’t have a lot of creators on our team that can just score at will or find a spot for teammates to get open and shoot. I’ve been doing that as well as bringing leadership and trying to put guys in the best position for themselves.”

With Brown becoming a star Hapoel SP Tel Aviv has risen four spots in the rankings since last season. At 15-10, they’re only a game back of Maccai Haifa for the third seed with roughly three weeks of the regular season remaining. Significant strides in Brown’s game are evident, but Nelson’s words have eliminated any chance of complacency.

“I think for me it’s my free throws right now,” Brown said when talking about what he wants to improve on. “I’m only shooting 72 71 percent, which is just not good enough at all, especially for a guard who has the ball in his hands in tough situations. Teams want to see guys who can close out games. If you can’t make shots at the line then you’re going to be sitting on the bench. I think I need to work on my free throws, bump up my 3 point percentage to around 37-38. Ideally it’s 40 but you have to take it one step at a time. If I increase my pressure on the ball defensively I think I can open some eyes for some teams so they know I can guard some of the ones and twos at the NBA level so they won’t be afraid to put me on an island. I think if I focus on those three things it’ll open some more doors for me and hopefully have some more NBA teams call in the summer time.

“Going from college to the D-League to here has definitely been a learning experience, a humbling experience, gratifying to know that my patience and my hard work has paid off. For me as a person it just lets me know that I’m headed in the right direction, that if I really put my mind to it like I did this summer to change my ways and habits that I can improve and I can dramatically improve my stats and be a better player. Hopefully I can continue to do that. This experience with this game has taught me so many things, took me all around the world at this point. I’m looking forward to the next chapter while finishing this chapter and continue to grow as a man and take care of business. At the end of the day basketball is a business and it’s allowed me, thank God, to provide for myself and my family. I can’t really ask for more than that. I’m just blessed.”

Everyone develops at their own pace. At 24 years of age Brown is just starting to come into his own and there’s no reason to believe he’s done improving. This may be his only season in Israel, but we can expect to see this new version of Brown no matter where the next step is.

“I’m being more aggressive, more confident, going out there and pushing the tempo, the boundaries of my game,” Brown said. “ I’m trying to hit every facet of my game whether it’s attacking the rim, the mid-range game, 3 balls, especially when I’m being defended well, finding my teammates in the open court and in half court sets and making the most out of every opportunity.”

Brown has gone for 20 or more 14 times this season and has been particularly impressive since the middle of February. In the seven games since he’s averaged 22 points a night. He’s hoping to cap off this career-year with a championship, which would help make the sacrifice of playing thousands of miles away from home that much more worth it.

“When I initially signed the contract and it said nine months you kind of think ok nine months you know I went to school for eight months,” Brown said. “But it’s a different feeling when you’re not at home, when you’re not around your family. I miss them. I got a little nephew, he’s about two, I’ve got two nephews now. Ones two and ones one. I miss seeing those guys. I miss my grandmother, miss her cooking, miss my little brother. I miss everybody. It really makes you appreciate your family when you’re gone so long in a different country where things you take for granted at home come to light here. You say gosh ‘I’m never going to take that for granted when I get back’, or ‘I’m going to appreciate this much more when I get back because it’s really not the same.’ You just have a different type of love and passion for your home and country.”

In the ideal scenario, Brown will be coming home and signing a NBA contract. No matter what, though, big things are ahead for the product of Riverside, California. He’s broken out this year and even if everything doesn’t line up on and off the court to get in the NBA, top teams from overseas will be calling immediately after. The best is yet to come in career, and he has his inner circle to thank for it.

“It’s about putting yourself with the good people around you who aren’t going to be yes men, aren’t always going to say you had a good game, not afraid to get in and work with you rebound for you, those are the guys you need around to keep you going and keep you motivated and not to be solely complacent on your work that you’ve put in in the past but what you can do for yourself to get better in the future because you only have such a short window in this game so you have to make the most of every year and every opportunity and that’s what I’ve learned from [Hernandez, his father and uncles].

“They definitely pushed me to places and told me things I don’t necessarily always want to hear. I have to respect it, appreciate it because they care about my future and they care about how well I do. I appreciate the things they tell me. It goes a long way.”

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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