When Mark Heimerdinger talks, Chris Brown is listening.
Brown is a senior guard on the Samuel Fels High School basketball team, and while he’s a great athlete, his best trait might be that he’s always listening and trying to learn about the game.
When Heimerdinger, the Panthers’ coach, tells Brown to go hard, he goes hard. When he’s told to work on his defense, he does exactly that. And when Heimerdinger pays him a compliment, it’s something he takes to heart.
This year, Heimerdinger gave Brown something he can be very proud of.
“He told me one day that I remind him of Kyle Lowry,” Brown said of the Toronto Raptors’ star who played for Heimerdinger when both were at Cardinal Dougherty. “He says I have the drive to win, that I always want to win. That means everything to me that he sees that because that’s how I want to play the game.
“You’re not going to always be the most athletic guy out there, so I have to rely on heart and hard work. That’s what’s going to help me do well.”
This year, Brown is doing well and so are the Panthers.
Fels is 5–1 overall, 3–1 in Public League divisional play, and Brown is happy they’re winning.
In fact, he’s just happy to be playing.
“Last summer, I broke my foot during AAU season and I wasn’t able to play,” said Brown, who is playing his first season of varsity basketball this year. “I realized how much I loved it last year when I couldn’t play. That really has me up to play better.”
Fels’ success is a bit of a surprise to some because the team lost some key players to graduation, but those on the team were expecting a good campaign.
According to Heimerdinger, the team knows its strengths and weaknesses and does everything it can to accentuate the positive while staying away from the negative.
“I think we’re better than a lot of people think we are,” said Brown, an Olney native. “When we listen and do what we’re supposed to do, we play a lot better. When we don’t listen, that’s when we usually have problems.”
That’s why Brown listens to his coach. And it’s also why the players on the court listen to Brown.
Though he doesn’t have a lot of experience when it comes to playing varsity basketball, Brown has always been a natural leader and this year he’s brought that to the Panthers.
“We have a lot of leaders, but I try to pick everyone up when they need it,” Brown said. “I think a lot of that comes with my position, I try to get everyone involved and playing better because we play a lot better when we’re playing together. Individually, we can be good, but that’s not how you win.”
According to Heimerdinger, it’s that attitude that makes Brown a special player.
“I told him he’s like Kyle Lowry in terms of hating to lose,” Heimerdinger said. “It’s not so much that he loves to win, it’s more that he hates to lose and won’t accept losing. He’s getting better as a basketball player, he’s in the process of becoming a smarter basketball player, but in terms of attitude and the will to win, he’s got that.”
Brown hopes that attitude will carry the Panthers to the Public League playoffs and beyond.
Last year, Fels lost a close game to Martin Luther King in the first round of the playoffs. King went on to make the Public League championship, and also won a game in the state playoffs.
This year, a close loss to a great team isn’t what the Panthers are shooting for.
“The Public League is good and all, but so are we,” Brown said. “I think we can do really good. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. If we play the way we can, and we do everything we’re supposed to do, we can be one of the best teams around.”
Brown also has other goals.
He’s not worried about individual accolades, but he is hoping he can show some college coaches that he’s ready to play next year.
Not playing varsity until his senior year put him behind the eight ball, but he is ready to make up for lost time.
“My foot feels really good, a lot better, and I’m playing better than ever,” Brown said. “I want to play in college. I don’t know where I’ll go, but I want to study some kind of business. I really want to be rich and I think that will help me get there. I like business, but I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to do with it.”