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Wizards’ Troy Brown helps homeless in his native Las Vegas

Rookie donates six years’ worth of basketball gear to teens and others in need

LAS VEGAS — Washington Wizards rookie Troy Brown grew up in a home where food and clothing were never an issue with two educated, successful and loving parents. Such was not the case for some of Brown’s Centennial High School classmates who were homeless. So, to help homeless teens and the less fortunate in his hometown, Brown recently gave away a significant amount of basketball gear that he had accumulated over six years.

“I don’t need this stuff. This is stuff that people actually need and can wear, especially being from Vegas, where we have homeless high school kids,” Brown told The Undefeated. “That is a big problem right now. When I was going through my stuff, I was thinking, ‘Am I going to wear this or does someone else need this?’ I was basically throwing most of it in the ‘I don’t need this’ pile and keeping the little stuff.

“I actually went to high school with some homeless kids at Centennial. It wasn’t as bad as most of the schools in Vegas because Centennial was out in the distance in the outskirts. It was tougher in the downtown area. I would talk to them, but they kept to themselves a lot and kept quiet. People kind of judged them. But they would talk to me because they knew I didn’t care what you had. As long as you were a good person, I would talk. You could tell they were going through stuff.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the homeless census estimated that 6,490 people in the Las Vegas area were either living in shelters or on the streets. An estimated 20 percent of the homeless were teenagers.

One charitable nonprofit organization that aids homeless teens that Brown supports is Project 150. According to its website, Project 150 was established in 2011 when the founders learned in a local newspaper story that Rancho High School had about 150 homeless high school students in need during Christmas break. Project 150 currently serves more than 3,300 registered homeless and 3,100 non-registered. “High School is Tough Enough” is Project 150’s slogan.

“Why not invest in deserving youth?” Project 150 executive director Meli Pulido asked. “They are doing the toughest thing waking up homeless and going to school every day and graduating. We give them food, clothing, school supplies and scholarships. All they need to show us is a valid high school ID.”

Brown toured the Project 150 donation center July 26 with Pulido. Brown was moved by some of the homeless teens who volunteered to work there to earn credits for extra clothing, food and supplies.

Troy Brown with Project 150 Executive Director Meli Puido.

Courtesy of Troy Brown

“It was huge just to see them not have a lot and still have a positive attitude about things and being uplifting,” Brown said. “They were saying, ‘Hi,’ with a really good attitude, knowing that they are going through stuff. It really puts life in perspective. We take stuff for granted and don’t appreciate the little things that we have.”

Brown was born and bred in Las Vegas and became a high school basketball standout at Centennial. He played in the esteemed 2017 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game, Jordan Brand Classic and Hoop Summit as a senior. From the eighth grade through his freshman season at the University of Oregon, he accumulated a large amount of basketball gear that included shoes, shirts, jerseys and sneakers. The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder kept most of the clothing and shoes he received from school and AAU teams in closets, boxes and in the garage at his parents’ home and at school at Oregon.

Brown said all of his donated basketball gear filled up 16 trash bags with clothing and four boxes with sneakers. There were shirts and shorts ranging in size from medium to XL and primarily basketball shoes, sizes 13 and 14. Half of Brown’s donated clothing and shoes were given to the Dr. William U. Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas, which serves low-income individuals and families. The other half was donated to Project 150. Brown also donated clothing to Pearson Community Center earlier this year.

“When we brought in all the stuff, [Pulido] was like, ‘Oh, wow, we need this,’ ” Brown said. “It is a donation center. They get stuff all the time. They have a lot of women’s clothing. You got to the area with the clothes and it’s mostly women’s. The men’s section is just a little section in the back. A lot of dudes don’t donate clothes.

“We were able to bring in a lot of younger stuff. Nike apparel. Shorts that kids can actually wear. To give it meant a lot.”

Brown said he felt “a lot better about myself” after making the clothing and shoes donation, and he encourages others to do the same.

“I always got my stuff from basketball camps, and it was hard to give away,” Brown said. “Every time I did give it away I only did it in lumps because I didn’t want to give it all away and regret it. When I got older I realized it was selfish for me to keep it. I am not wearing it, and there are kids who need it. After summer league, I kept what I actually would wear and took what I wouldn’t wear [to charity] …

“Just from me doing it, I felt a lot better about myself. It’s hard for people to do it because they don’t think about it in the perspective of helping someone else. They’re thinking about it as ‘I’m losing my clothes,’ even though they don’t really need it. Someone else needs it. It’s something that you want. It’s all about the mindset. People should start thinking about that.”

Pulido said Brown also donated some jeans and dress shoes. She was excited to add some clothes from Brown that were hip to today’s clothing styles. She also believes that the recipients will be proud to wear old clothes from an NBA player from their city.

“I was happy to see that a former student from a local school was giving back,” Pulido said of Brown. “He is truly going to make an impact. They will see the clothes and the quality and gain self-esteem. Wish it would catch on like wildfire and others would do the same.”

Brown averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Oregon as a true freshman last season. He didn’t receive an invite to the green room at the 2018 NBA draft. So instead, Brown decided to have a draft party with family and friends in Las Vegas at a private bowling alley at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa.

Brown said he was motivated by the green room snub.

“It wasn’t surprising,” Brown said. “I don’t ever feel like I get the benefit of the doubt, so my expectations are not for what other people expect. My expectations are high. It’s just me having a chip on my shoulder and adding to the fire. But it actually worked out for the best because I got to spend the draft with my family.”

Brown said he was not stressed at the start of the draft since he assumed he would be selected after the 10th pick. The team with the highest pick that he had worked out for was the Charlotte Hornets, who had the 11th overall selection. Brown finally got the phone call he dreamed of when the Wizards called to say they selected him with the 15th pick. Brown had conversations with Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks during the call.

Brown was the highest player taken to not attend the draft and was very excited to see the announcement of his selection on television.

“It was so nerve-wracking,” Brown said. “Even though I knew I would get drafted by the Wizards, that five minutes until they announced my name couldn’t have come any slower.”

Brown was well-supported during NBA summer league, with many of his family members and friends attending his games. After getting his jitters out during warm-ups, he had 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in his summer league debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown averaged 18.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game in summer league.

Brown described himself as a “basketball player” when asked his position. Based on his summer play, expect the Wizards to get this basketball player on the floor during his rookie season.

“I just want to be able to contribute my rookie year, do the little things, earn my minutes and get on the court,” Brown said.

Living in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., as a member of the Wizards could be a great fit on and off the court for Brown, who is passionate about basketball and helping out the less fortunate.

“I want to go to the black history museum again, go to the zoo and just get used to the culture out there,” Brown said. “I want to embrace it and not be a bystander. I want to take in the city and enjoy it.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.