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Troy Brown Jr. has heard the complaints. He knows that Wizards fans have had mixed feelings about him being drafted. He’s read reports on how the team should’ve drafted a big man, and how he’s just another one of Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld‘s wing player projects. He’s comfortable with that. The 19-year-old Las Vegas native says he’s been doubted his entire career.
“I’m used to being the underdog in most situations,” Brown tells City Paper, “that’s how it’s always been for me, just having that growing up and even now with the pick and stuff.”
In June, the Wizards used the 15th overall pick to select Brown, a 6-foot-7 freshman out of Oregon. Grunfeld praised the young forward’s “very high basketball I.Q.” and ball handling skills, but to some, the pick seemed like a wasted opportunity since the team already has athletic, versatile forwards like Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Brown says he’s often been overlooked, from his prep basketball days to his one year at Oregon, an athletic powerhouse not exactly known for its basketball talent.
“In Vegas, there wasn’t a lot of publicity and stuff like that, a lot of people didn’t know me,” Brown said during his Wizards media day press conference. “Even going to Oregon, it wasn’t a big basketball school. That’s just how it’s been all my career. But I felt I’ve always done the things necessary to get to where I am today.”
For his teammates, Brown brings versatility to the team. John Wall says this year’s team is the most talented squad “as a whole bunch together” he’s had in nine years with the franchise. A big part of that is the depth on the bench that has been missing in previous seasons.
During summer league play, Brown averaged 18.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
“I think he’s just a mature player for his age,” Wall told reporters. “He never gets rattled, he’s always poised. It’s kind of hard to find guys 18, 19 years old who’s very poised and mature coming into this league. …He’s going to be a great piece for us.”
Porter, who was drafted third overall in 2013, sees some similarities between himself and the rookie. Both have been described as “mature” for their age when entering the league.
“The advice I did give him is to always continue to work and try to learn,” Porter said during his press conference. “Be a sponge and soak it all up while you can. I think that’s a big thing that he took with him. He’s always asking questions and things like that.”
Oubre has known about Brown since college. He attended Kansas with Brown’s older sister, Jada, and Oubre has also lived in Las Vegas. “She used to talk about him all the time,” Oubre says. “He’s a great individual, great spirit, good energy. I’m excited to be on the same team.”
The outside doubt is still there. Teammate Dwight Howard admitted as much when he told reporters, “I think everyone maybe has something prove. All of us feel like we have some chips on our shoulders.” ESPN.com has the Wizards as the 14th best team heading into the preseason.
But so far, Brown seems to be enjoying his time in his new city. While waiting in line for his turn to film his player intro, he leans over in laughter as teammate Jason Smith poses for the camera nearby. It’s a new season, and everyone is getting along. That part hasn’t been difficult. It’s the weather that’s required some adjustment.
“I would just say the humidity right now is still getting to me,” Brown says.