AACC's Brown slows it down, gets in line with goal

April 04, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

All of the numbers -- those accumulated on the lacrosse field and in the classroom -- suggested that Chris Brown would fit in comfortably at a large Division I school like the University of North Carolina.

So what went wrong?

How did Brown, a first-team All-Metro goalkeeper at St. Mary's in the spring of 1991, wind up never playing a single game for the Tar Heels? And better yet, what's he doing now at Anne Arundel Community College?

From all appearances, he's fitting in comfortably, on the field and in the classroom.

Just like he was supposed to do all along.

Brown, a 3.0 student at St. Mary's with an SAT score of 1040, was red-shirted his first year at Chapel Hill, which wasn't much of a surprise since the Tar Heels already had a quality goalkeeper in senior Billy Daye.

But then, the story gets more shocking. Brown began experiencing academic problems for the first time. The economics courses grew too difficult and the distractions too enticing. And when his grade-point average dipped to 1.3, everything unraveled.

"I struggled, going to a big school from a little private school," he said. "I went with a hard major -- I was going to be a business major -- and that didn't interest me as much as I thought it would, and I ended up being on academic probation. With so many things to do and with so many people you meet, it was kind of easy to get sidetracked.

"My parents and I decided that I was just digging myself a hole and it would be better to make a fresh start."

He played fall ball at North Carolina, but by the spring of 1993 he was back home, registered at Anne Arundel and still ineligible. He stayed sharp by competing on a club team based in College Park, and by playing fall ball at Anne Arundel.

By this spring, his grades were up, and his confidence still strong. He changed his major to history and obtained a full scholarship to UMBC, where he will transfer in the fall with two years of eligibility remaining.

"I knew I let myself down before," he said. "It was weird. It was definitely a reality check, a kick in the butt."

Though he harbors these feelings, it's difficult for Brown to second-guess himself for originally choosing North Carolina over the other schools that pursued him, such as Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Loyola and the Naval Academy.

North Carolina is "pretty much heaven," he said. "I wanted to go there since I was a little kid. It's a great program, I had friends on the team, and I wanted to go someplace south. Right from the start, I said that if I got the call from Carolina and the offer was right, that I was definitely going there. There was no other place I really wanted to play."

Now, given a second chance at the Division I level, UMBC has that same allure. Brown looks forward to playing for former Hopkins coach Don Zimmerman, but he won't divert his attention from Anne Arundel.

The Pioneers are off to a 5-1 start, and Brown is performing superbly, making 70 saves and allowing just 27 goals. The quick reflexes and sound judgment that frustrated so many opponents in the now-defunct MSA A Conference are still present.

Watching Brown turn aside 20 shots and bark commands and encouragement to his teammates in last week's 12-11 double-overtime loss to Essex, which broke a five-game winning streak, makes it seem as though the clock has been turned back three years.

"Chris adds everything to our team," said Ron Klausner, Anne Arundel's defensive coordinator. "For one, he's a pure stopper. He knows how to stop the ball and how to outlet the ball extremely well. Also, he knows how to direct our defense extremely well and the players have a lot of confidence in him. Once they have that confidence, they're going to wind up playing at a different level.

"When he came in, he was ready to play right from the get-go. And he's really a nice kid. He has a good personality and the kids like him. He's not cocky, which you might have sometimes with a kid coming in from where he went. He doesn't feel like he's above anyone."

How could he, Brown wonders? "These being my first collegiate games, I haven't proved anything to anybody, not even to myself yet. The way I looked at it, I had no reason to be cocky," he said.

Once Brown gets to UMBC, he will have the opportunity to play against his younger brother, Jim, a senior goalkeeper at St. Mary's who has accepted a scholarship to Loyola.

"Loyola isn't as big a school [as North Carolina], but the atmosphere is going to be the same," Chris said. "I've told him things to look out for, but I can't tell him what to do and what not to do. He's got to make those choices on his own. But my parents have definitely told him what's up, telling him, 'Don't do what your brother did.' He'll learn from it. He won't let the same thing happen.

"He better not."

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