MAYWOOD, Ill. – All Sterling Brown wants is a chance.
“Right now, I just need that foot in the door. Whatever team I get on, I’m going to play my hardest. Whatever happens from there happens.”
After a breakout junior year at Southern Methodist University, Sterling wasn’t given the opportunity to shine on the national stage.
The top-25 ranked Mustangs had the resume to make the Big Dance. They were just banned from playing in it.
The NCAA slapped sanctions on SMU for, among other reasons, “unethical conduct and head coach control in the men’s basketball program.”
It marked the third time a team under Larry Brown’s tutelage violated NCAA rules.
Brown left the next year, but Sterling didn’t lose his stride.
The former Proviso East star averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists on a team with all five starters regularly producing double digits numbers.
Scoring at frantic rate, SMU finished the year on a 25-1 run.
Despite tallying 17 points, USC abruptly ended Brown’s senior season and the Mustangs’ 16-game win streak on a late comeback in round one of the NCAA Tournament.
A tough loss but just another checkpoint on Brown’s lifelong mission to make the NBA.
“When I was a little kid, that was definitely my decision. I want to say 8 or so. I was young, still in grade school.”
The math works out. That’s right around when his older brother Shannon made the jump to Michigan State and eventually the NBA, where he helped the Lakers win two NBA titles.
“I was there for the first in Orlando and the one when they beat the Celtics. That was fun going to the parades and seeing the atmosphere from a different level.”
Although he may have been considered a role player in L.A., Shannon’s highlight reel dunks jumped off the screen.
Just ask NBA scouts.
"They remember him. They see the difference in how I play. Similarities, but different style. We both go out there and try to win . That's what they see at the end of the day."
Before June, Sterling had already worked out for the Spurs, Grizzlies, Magic, and Bucks with at least seven others lining up to take a look.
Sports Illustrated ranks him 44th on its big board, others have him lower. Either way, Brown's confident in his ability to succeed at the next level.
"I wouldn't say there's too much anxiety or stress. It's fun for me right now. I'm doing what I love to do - playing basketball, traveling all over the country. Can't really ask for too much more."
Chicago won't be well represented in this year's draft. At least, not as much as it has been historically.
But there's one dark horse the city can still get behind.