By the time he turned 13, Brown had grown to 6-foot-1 and 145 pounds. He started for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, a youth travel team, under Leo Papile, a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers who once worked for the Celtics.
Brown’s mother Roberta recognized his athletic skills and wanted him to have access to more educational resources in Wakefield. So Brown woke up at dawn to get on a bus to the suburbs. By his senior year at Vermont Academy, Division I Boy Scouts from around the country called Simpson, Papile, and Alex Popp, his trainer at Vermont Academy, to inquire about him.
Brown took a three-hour bus ride from Vermont to Boston on Thursday night, took his high school classes remotely on Friday, and then flew to Indiana, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia to play with the BABC team.
Brown’s parents had divorced and his mother had moved to Atlanta to work at Delta Air Lines and he couldn’t stay with his father in the Boston area. Papile placed it in a small basement apartment under a popular New York pizza parlor in a building he owned in Roxbury. Known colloquially as The Club among BABC players, the building served as an office and bed and breakfast, Papile said. “Bruce could run up the stairs and they would put pizza on him,” he said. “It was very family oriented.”
On the advice of Papile, Simpson, and others, Brown opted for college basketball in Florida at the University of Miami and spent two seasons under coach Jim Larranaga averaging 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 52 games, 48 as a starter. He attended Wakefield between his two seasons, and Simpson opened the school gym for him to practice – the same gym where he dazzled his peers and coaches with dunks and his tenacity.
“He’s the lace-up blue collar player who gets the ball by whatever means necessary,” said Papile. “That role is invaluable on a super team like the Nets.”