Third in an occasional series looking at some of Philadelphia's men's basketball players to watch.
Charlie Brown looks different from the last time he was seen on a basketball court in a St. Joseph's uniform. He has gained some weight and lost some hair. The smile remains. So does the talent.
From the moment Brown played his first college game last season, his fluid movement and perfect shooting form suggested special. Now, entering his second season on Hawk Hill, a conversation with Brown and his coach, Phil Martelli, strongly suggests serious, very serious about the game and his chances for a serious future.
"He's got the look,'' Martelli said. "He's got everything. He's just got to make sure he listens to the right people.''
For a school its size, St. Joe's, under Martelli, has had a real NBA pipeline, starting with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West in 2004 and continuing through Langston Galloway and DeAndre' Bembry.
It is no secret to anybody that Brown has a chance to be the next one. But not yet. He was good as a freshman, averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds for an undermanned team. He made 71 threes while shooting 38.4 percent from the arc. He shot 81.9 percent from the foul line. That was the tease. What comes next will tell the tale.
The family tradition is there (Brown's father, Charles, was a key member of the 1979-80 Overbrook High team starring Tony Costner and Steve Black that went 34-0). The skill is there. The will is the separator.
"Every time I work out, I think, `What would a pro do?' '' Brown said. "My dad brings me along the same way.''
"I think he can play basketball at the highest level,'' Martelli said. "He does something that everybody wants at every level. He makes baskets. We want that dream to be evident in the way he practices, in the way he lifts, in the way he fuels himself, in the way he cuts down on outside noise.''
Martelli has some very good shooters in his program — Galloway, Terrell Myers, and Mark Bass, among them.
"I think the prettiest jumper we've had was Pat Carroll's,'' Martelli said. "It was quick. It was short. It was grooved. Charlie's is a little longer. … He's one of those guys, when he raises up and everything's in rhythm, you think, That's in.''
Check out the release on this video from Brown's AAU days.
Brown had to play 34.2 minutes per game last season because there were no other options for a team that lost starters at the beginning, in the middle, and closer to the end of the season. The coach wanted him to get rest early in the summer so his body could recover.
"I kind of was listening to him, but I kind of didn't because I just kept working,'' Brown said. "Maybe four or five days out of the week, I'd go work out. The other two days, I'm just chillin'.''
Brown's body has changed. He looked fragile at times last season. No more. Now, after gaining what he said is 25 pounds, he looks so much stronger.
"He's mentally fresher,'' Martelli said. "At the end of last year, he was asked to do so many things. He's refreshed. He has a much stronger concept of the game of basketball. It's not just how many shots can I make.''
And there is also this:
"He's has bounce,'' Martelli said. "He is just a little older, a little bit more mature — classroom, socially, basketball.''
With all the injuries healed, St. Joe's, with Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble, and Chekko Oliva all back, is going to be much better this season, so Brown, after often getting checked by the other team's best defender, will have more room on the court. It wasn't like Bembry's freshman season, when the Hawks had weapons all over the court for an Atlantic Ten championship team.
"He got thrown into the fire,'' Martelli said of Brown. "There isn't a lengthy DVD of him taking bad shots. Because of his size, he can get up and see the rim.''
The 6-foot-7 Brown is never in danger of getting his jumper blocked. He gets great elevation and a smooth release. It might be the best part of an expanding skill set.
"He's dying to be great, and his family wants him to be great,'' Martelli said. "I give them a lot of credit because they know there are no shortcuts to him being great. His father is here often, but there's no interference. As long as he can block out the noise, we're going to give him every opportunity to be great.''
Martelli's hope is to get Brown next summer into the Nike Skills Academy, the same route Bembry took in 2015 to get firmly on the NBA radar that ended with him as a first-round pick by Atlanta in 2016.
"As a sophomore, you want to be on their list so that they come through, they evaluate you in practice, see you in games,'' Martelli said.
Charlie Brown is on the list.
But he wants more than just basketball.
"If I'm known as [just] a basketball player, it means I'm doing a poor job with the rest of my life,'' Brown said. "I want to be recognized, but I don't want that to be me [only].''
So what's up with the hair?
"One day I woke up and said, 'It's time for it to go,' " Brown said.