The moniker "Mr. Defense" has always fit Tim Brown well.
Defense was Brown's calling card at Annapolis High when he was named the Anne Arundel County Sun Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the 1986-1987 season, and he has gotten even better at it in four years of college at California University of Pennsylvania.
With Brown averaging 14 points a game and playing his usual remarkable defense, California has raced out to a 7-0 record in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II play, with its sights on the NCAA postseason tournament. The Division II tournament is similar in format to the Division I grand finale.
Preparing to graduate this May with a degree in business administration, Brown is completing his fourth year at California and has established himself as a role model for younger student-athletes.
"Tim is the kind of young man any dad would want his son to be like," says an admiring Annapolis basketball coach John Brady. "We're proud of him, the way he has gone away to school and played basketball. But most of all, he's graduating with a degree and not stopping there."
No, Brown is not. A 6-foot-2 defensive stalwart on the court, he has also defensed his career well, leaving no holes. He has won the basketball team's Academic Athletic Award the last two years and is working hard to make it a three-peat.
"I will graduate in May, and then I'm going to graduate school and, ultimately, I hope to get into sales," says Brown, a 2.80 student who is home for the holidays with his mom, Frances, who now lives in Glen Burnie.
"I owe a lot to Mr. Brady," Brown adds. "He's a really caring guy and he has gone out of his way to keep in touch with me since I graduated from Annapolis. In fact, he's been more interested in me since I got out of high school than when I was there."
Brady cares enough about his players that he spends hours of his free time trying to get them into college. Each year he gives his players a checklist on the academic requirements for college, information on scholarships and financial aid -- all there is to know about getting into college.
Those are things he doesn't have to do as diligently as he does, but he takes great pride in his proteges who go away to school. Just this past year, Brady, who has sent nearly 80 percent of his graduates to college with some sort of scholarship or aid, paved the way for six players from his 1989-1990 state Class 4A championship team to get into college.
At Annapolis, it's just a matter of following instructions and taking care of the paper work to get into college, and the coach will break his back for you. Tim Brown was one of those guys who listened to Brady.
"I got a full scholarship to California thanks to Mr. Brady and I'm now fulfilling my part by graduating," says Brown, who adds that Cal coach Jim Boone never saw him play but relied on Brady's recommendation.
"Mr. Brady sent coach Boone a tape, told him I could help him and I got a full scholarship," Brown says.
Boone has not regretted it at all. In fact, the coach is ecstatic over the four years Tim has given him.
"Tim has a great work ethic that is a great example to our younger players, and he is fundamentally sound," says Boone, who thought enough of Brown's "quiet leadership by example" to name him team captain.
Brown, who has been named Mr. Defense at California the last two seasons, has started the last three years after being the team's sixth man his freshman year.
California won its conference championship during Brown's freshman year and made it to the East regional, which is one of his personal thrills. But he just might top that this season.
"Coach Boone went out and got a couple big guys from junior colleges and we've got a great chance of making the NCAA Tournament this year," says Brown. "We were 18-10 last year and finished third in the ECAC Tournament in New York City. We have much a better team."
California puts its unbeaten record on the line in a holiday tournament next week at Gannon College in Erie, Pa. Three teams ranked in the Division II Top 10 will participate.
Brown thinks the team will get better as soon as he does. Despite his 14 points per game and superb defense, the modest Brown says, "I'm not playing up to my ability yet and when I do, we will only get better."
That's the way it was at Annapolis, as the humble young cager led the Panthers to a 23-2 record and state semifinal finish as a senior in 1986-87. Annapolis dropped a 69-56 decision to the late Jay Bias and Northwestern of Prince George's County at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.
Brown, who Brady says "plays textbook defense," had 21 points that night, going 8-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the line in what would be his final game as a Panther. During the season, the goggled Brown averaged 16.1 points a game in earning Player of the Year honors.