When UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown told Jackson Brown — the coach’s son — to check into Sunday’s game, the veteran leader of the Great Danes knew “there wasn’t a more nervous kid in the country” than the freshman about to debut for the program he’s been a part of his entire life.
“When I called his name to go in,” Will Brown said after Sunday’s 83-64 win at New Hampshire, “I think he almost passed out.”
As Jackson Brown hit the court?
The nerves didn’t exactly go away.
“They went way up,” Jackson Brown said.
And there was a simple reason for that.
“This is the first game I’ve ever played for my dad,” said Jackson Brown, who starred at Catholic Central as a high school player.
Jackson Brown originally planned to start a Division III playing career this winter, but made the decision last summer to instead join UAlbany as a walk-on player for at least one year given all the uncertainty that exists as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues. The 6-foot-3 guard wasn’t going to play any minutes this season to preserve the year of playing eligibility, but the NCAA’s ruling that all players competing this winter will be allowed an extra year of playing eligibility opened the door for Jackson Brown to grab some minutes this season.
Jackson Brown didn’t play in any of UAlbany’s first nine games. He made up for lost time, though, and took two shots Sunday in the 2:05 he played.
“I think he needs to ice his elbow on the bus ride home,” Will Brown joked.
Jackson Brown’s first shot was a 3-point attempt, then he took a 2. Both shots missed — and the team’s head coach let him hear about the shot selection.
“I got really upset with the first 3 that he took because it was quick — and the guys on the bench are laughing because they saw the steam coming out of my ears,” Will Brown said. “When we’re on this court, he’s a player, he’s not my son — so I gave it to him pretty good. Nothing that I haven’t done before to him, but I gave it to him pretty good.
“And,” Will Brown continued, “when he took the second one, I was mad at him because I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you just shoot the 3 that time instead of dribbling it?’”
Jackson Brown took the criticism in stride, and for what it was: coaching. He showed up to play for his father, who began his tenure leading UAlbany during the 2001-02 season, as part of a “learning year” meant to improve his game.
“And, overall, this has been a great experience, and I want to keep progressing and working to get better,” Jackson Brown said.
On making his playing debut, he added: “It’s just a great feeling.”
Will Brown shared that feeling with his son. He called it a “proud dad moment” when he got to send his son into the game that was safely in UAlbany’s favor.
“I know his mom’s going to tell me when I get home those [were] two great shots,” Will Brown said.