The next big thing: UNLV basketball offers scholarship to local 14-year-old Troy Brown Jr.

The point guard will play his first high school game next month at Centennial High; compared to former NBA player Penny Hardaway

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Steve Marcus

Freshman Troy Brown Jr., 14, poses at Centennial High School Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Brown was offered a basketball scholarship this week by UNLV. He’s a 6-5 point guard.

Troy Brown Jr. At Practice

Freshman Troy Brown Jr., 14, poses at Centennial High School Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Brown was offered a basketball scholarship this week by UNLV. He's a 6-5 point guard. Launch slideshow »

Troy Brown Jr. couldn’t hold back his emotions.

When he got off the phone Tuesday night with UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice, the Centennial High freshman was so overwhelmed with happiness he started crying.

The 14-year-old point guard was offered a scholarship by the Rebels — the first of what should be many offers for the 6-foot-5 prospect.

“He got done talking with Dave and burst out crying. He was saying, ‘Dad, I’m so happy; so thankful,'” said Troy Brown Sr., his father.

While Brown won’t play his first high school game until next month, he’s already considered a top recruit for the class of 2017. One recruiting service lists him as the nation’s 11th overall prospect for the class.

After watching him play last week, Joel Francisco of ESPN.com was instantly was impressed. He wrote, “Brown is a willowy point guard prospect with extraordinary long arms. His handle is slick and tight, and he has the innate ability to find guys in the open court due to his vision and savvy.

“Despite his sleek frame he can mix it up inside and snag rebounds in traffic, and his jump shot (release point) has improved since July,” he continued. “It’s obviously very early in the process, but this Penny Hardaway-like prospect has immense potential if he stays grounded.”

Staying grounded is something those closest to Brown aren’t worried about. Anthony Brown, his AAU coach with the Las Vegas Prospects, and Centennial coach Todd Allen raved about Brown Jr.’s maturity and solid support system at home.

Both his parents played college athletics at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville); his sister, Jada Brown, is a freshman on the Kansas University women’s team; and his other sister, Janae Brown, is a thrower for UNLV track.

“I am so happy for him. We are just so excited to have him in our program,” Allen said. “He comes from a great family. The kid has so many skills and he is so advanced. I have told him, ‘You aren’t a freshman. You aren’t a freshman.’”

And this freshman will likely be the starting point guard on the Centennial varsity team. Some nights, he’ll be the best player on the court — not bad for someone who turned 14 in July.

“I’ll probably retire (from coaching) after he is done,” said Anthony Brown, the Prospects coach. “We’ll probably never have another kid like him in the program.”

Some would become cocky or complacent after hearing that praise, or being compared to a NBA player, but Brown Jr. isn’t fazed.

“I have to stay humble,” he said. “I’ve been taught to take what people say, appreciate it and move on.”

Brown has attended a handful of UNLV games in the Rice coaching era and is attracted to the Rebels’ philosophy of being a running team. He’s considered to be at his best pushing the ball up the court on the break.

“I like to beat teams in transition. I see the court well,” he said. “I’m a good rebounder. I’m a threat to get the ball and go.”

He’s been a leader — on and off the court — since a young age. In football, he was the team’s quarterback and one of its best players, but decided not to play in high school to focus full-time on basketball. In track, he excelled in sprinting events. At school, he’s a friend to many.

“He probably is a much better kid than basketball player,” Brown Sr. said. “We’ve always taught him that it’s about your service to others in life, not yourself. He’s the type of kid that’s going to shake everyone’s hand in the hallway.”

On the basketball court, the options are limitless.

“Good things happen to good people, and that’s one great kid,” Allen said. “There are so many things we can do with him because is so versatile and so long. He wants to learn. He is getting better on defense.”

Although he’s years away from picking a college, his first offer was a milestone. It’s a reward for his hard work and another sign he’s arrived.

“I like the way they run the court,” he said of UNLV. “I like the fast tempo and style of game they play. I also like the way coach Rice coaches.”

He won’t be eligible to sign with a college for three years and he’s never really given much thought about where he’ll play in college, even though he’s always liked Kansas. While his play is certainly better than most high school freshmen, it’s important to realize he’s just that — someone just two months into high school.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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