ALBANY — He couldn’t put an exact number on it.
But it’s fair to say that one of the newest Great Danes has seen his fair share of UAlbany men’s basketball games over the years.
“Let’s just go with a lot,” Jackson Brown, laughing, said Tuesday night in a phone interview.
That makes sense.
After all, dad Will Brown is the head coach of the program and has held that position since before the 18-year-old Jackson Brown was born.
“This,” Will Brown said, “is going to be interesting for both of us.”
Jackson Brown, who starred locally at Catholic Central, will serve during the 2020-21 season as a walk-on for the Great Danes. Initially set to head to Emmanuel College in Boston, a desire to stay closer to home given the uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic eventually led Jackson Brown to head to the school with which he’s always had a connection.
At Emmanuel, Jackson Brown would have played Division III basketball. While he briefly considered heading to prep school or Castleton University after de-committing in March from Emmanuel, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard from Latham who averaged 17 points per game as a high school senior kept coming back in his mind to spending the 2020-21 school year at UAlbany.
What followed were several long talks with dad and mom — “More my mom” — regarding whether it was possible for him to go to UAlbany, at least for his freshman year. They weighed the positives and negatives, and earlier this summer, Jackson Brown confirmed the decision to go ahead with becoming a Great Dane.
“I know, deep down, his mother is happy he’s close to home,” Will Brown said. “Dad won’t comment until I coach him a little bit.”
The plan is for Jackson Brown to redshirt during the 2020-21 season, allowing him the chance to maintain his four years of playing eligibility — which he may use elsewhere. He’s taking things day by day, and his focus this upcoming season is on making sure he improves as much as possible during his first year of college basketball.
“For me, because of what I do for a living, it’s probably unfair to Jackson because I’m probably overly critical, but I never want to be the parent that’s blinded,” said Will Brown, who became UAlbany’s interim head coach during the 2001-02 season and the program’s full-time head coach for the 2002-03 season. “I want to be honest with Jackson, and I have been. I told him that I thought if he keeps working, that he had a chance to be a really good Division III player, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, I also told him that you don’t know. . . . In his mind, he wants to see how good he can get, and what level he can eventually play. If it’s Division III, it’s Division III. If it’s Division II, it’s Division II.”
Especially in recent years, Jackson Brown has been around the Division I Great Danes on a regular basis. He was friends with several of his now-teammates before joining the program, and said he received text messages of support welcoming him to the program from several Great Danes earlier this summer.
Will Brown played for his father Bill Brown in high school. He knows it’s not always easy for the son of a coach in a team’s locker room, and said he’s discussed with Jackson Brown that there will be times when his teammates aren’t thrilled with his dad.
“But I’m not going to let that bother me,” Jackson Brown said. “I just want to work hard. . . . Honestly, it’s been great so far. I hope the other guys would say the same. But I already had great relationships with a lot of the guys on my dad’s team because I’ve been around them constantly. Worked out with them constantly. With them, and the coaching staff. I mean, his coaching staff has known me since I was a baby.”
Will Brown joked that his assistant coaches are likely taking bets on how many practices the head coach will go before he kicks his son out of a workout. The chance to coach his son, though, is a special one for Will Brown.
“As much as I’m nervous about this next chapter, I’m really excited for the opportunity because I know what it meant to have the opportunity to play for my dad,” Will Brown said.
UAlbany, which has eight new players on its 2020-21 roster including Jackson Brown, had a virtual team meeting Sunday. Next week, the Great Danes are able to start workouts with restrictions. Always wearing masks, the team is able to lift weights and participate in small-group basketball workouts that will see no more than 10 people — including coaches — in the facility at one time. Each player during those workouts will use his own basketball.
“There’s a lot of challenges,” Will Brown said, “but our guys are up to it.”
Coaching his son will be a challenge, but one Will Brown said he’s excited to take on this upcoming season. Basketball only became a focus for Jackson Brown a few years ago after he spent many years playing baseball, and Will Brown has enjoyed getting the chance to put his son through workouts these last couple years.
And, now, he’ll really coach him.
“I’m not going to shortchange him, and I told him there’s going to be plenty of days where he’s not going to like me,” Will Brown said. “I want to see his dreams come true, and I know how hard you have to work to play at any level.”