Lorenzo Brown pondered the idea of turning professional a year ago, but he wanted to come back and take a crack at winning a national championship at NC State this season.
Brown and the Wolfpack fell 76-72 to Temple last Friday in their first game of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. Brown finished with 22 points, nine assists and four rebounds in 39 minutes played, in what has turned out to be his last game. After pondering his future over the weekend, word leaked out to the national media that Brown was going to turn pro. He huddled with his mother Kim Banks and NCSU coach
Mark Gottfried on Wednesday and then had a formal press conference with them Thursday at the Dail Center.
Brown knew it was simply time to move on to the next chapter in his life.
"I'll be declaring for the NBA draft this year," Brown said. "I sat down with my family and we made a decision over the last couple of days. I kind of new it was just time. I just figured it was my time to leave and step up for something new.
"This has always been a dream for me ever since I was a baby. Ever since I can remember, and just watching guys like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal in the league. It just seems like an amazing atmosphere."
Former NC State assistant coach Larry Harris diligently recruited the former star point guard at Roswell (Ga.) Centennial High, and then stood by him when he failed to qualify academically for college. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 37 overall player in the class of 2009, and No. 7 point guard, and the Wolfpack were starving for a floor general. Harris knew early on at Centennial that Brown had a chance to be great one day.
Harris made sure that Brown kept his spirits up and his play focused at his next stop. Brown ended up taking a one-year detour at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, where he played for current Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts. Brown was handed the ball and ran the show, which is what NC State eventually did.
Former NC State coach Sidney Lowe went with a dual point guard lineup with freshmen Brown and Ryan Harrow, and then senior Javi Gonzalez mixed in. The results were mixed, but when Harrow went down with an illness, Brown blossomed during the second half of the ACC slate.
Lowe was fired, along with Harris, and Harrow eventually transferred to Kentucky, and Brown was left standing as the only point guard on the roster. The late addition of Cal-State Bakersfield transfer Alex Johnson helped firm up the roster, but it became clear that new coach Gottfried would turn the ball over to Brown just as Keatts did at Hargrave and Allen Whitehart had done for four years at Centennial.
"My freshman year was pretty tough for me and it was something new that I didn't know too much about," Brown said. "The team struggled, but when Coach Gottfried came here, he put the ball in my hands and to lead this team."
Brown blossomed his sophomore season and helped led the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 after victories over San Diego State and Georgetown. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game, while improving his shooting percentages across the board.
The 6-foot-4, 186-pounder gathered preseason ACC player of the year attention, which eventually went to junior teammate C.J. Leslie, who is expected to formally declare for the draft in the near future.
Gottfried is hopeful that Brown will go in the first round, and DraftExpress.com currently has him No. 29 overall in the first round.
"He stepped into the role of our point guard and I think he's learned, he's grown and he's gotten better," said Gottfried, who talked to about 15-20 NBA teams over the last year. "I'm excited about his future. I know he's ready, and that's the most important thing."
Brown's junior year stats were eerily similar, though his field-goal percentage and three-point percentage dropped slightly. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.2 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, and played hobbled down the stretch with an ankle injury suffered against Virginia on Jan. 29. He had been playing some of his best basketball prior to the injury, including going for 20 points and 11 assists in a 91-83 win over North Carolina on Jan. 26. Brown finished the season shooting 7 for 38 from three-point land in the games following the injury.
NC State ended up finishing fifth in the ACC during the regular season, but reached the semifinals in the ACC Tournament en route to a 24-11 mark. NCSU went 63-38 under Brown during his three-year career, with just two games missed due to the previously mentioned ankle injury.
Gottfried has had several players turn pro during his days at Alabama, including current Utah Jazz point guard Maurice Williams. He expects Brown to go through several workouts in the upcoming weeks while keeping up with his school work.
"I'm proud of Lorenzo and we've talked about this, and we've talked about this with his mother, and Lorenzo is very comfortable, confident and I'm excited for him," Gottfried said. "I personally believe he has a great future in the NBA. I support him 100 percent and I've enjoyed coaching him."
While the roster might be in flux the upcoming next few weeks, Gottfried reiterated he's here to stay in Raleigh and rebuild the program.
"There was a lot of discussion from others [about the UCLA job], but not necessarily me, but I thought it was important to make that comment," Gottfried said. "I'm excited about being here. My full focus is the work that we have to do, which is a lot right now."