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North Philly native Mikeal Brown-Jones has pieces come together at UNC Greensboro

02/20/2024, 11:00am EST
By Jeff Griffith

By Jeff Griffith (@hooplove215)

Mikeal Brown-Jones has arrived.

The Philadelphia native — who spent time at Roman Catholic and Girard College before completing his prep career at IMG Academy — earned Top 100 status in the class of 2020, per 247Sports, and landed at VCU. It wasn’t the right fit. 

He transferred. He waited. He worked. Now, as a redshirt senior at UNC Greensboro, the pieces have all come together for the 6-8 forward.

And it’s been worth the wait. 

“I had no idea this was going to happen for me,” Brown-Jones said. “It was a long journey, so for me to start to put the pieces together now is a great feeling.”

Brown-Jones’ 2023-24 season has been the manifestation of everything scouts saw when he made his way through the recruiting ranks. 

UNC Greensboro senior Mikeal Brown-Jones is having a breakout senior season. (Photo: Denise Archetto/UNC-Greensboro Athletics)

He’s productive, averaging a team-high 19.7 points. He’s active, averaging a team-high 7.8 rebounds. And he’s incredibly efficient, too, shooting impressive .556/.449/.784 splits.

And according to Brown-Jones, those were all, generally, areas he wanted to work on heading into this redshirt senior season — especially shooting and rebounding — in order to make himself a more versatile asset. 

As a redshirt junior, averaging 21.1 minutes —  seven shy of his 2023-24 mark — Brown-Jones connected on just seven of his 24 three-point attempts (.292). With three full weeks remaining this season, he’s doubled his attempts, and tripled his makes. His rebounding average is nearly doubled from 4.4 a year ago. 

Brown-Jones’ transition to UNCG has paid off. He’s found where he can thrive.

“The honest to God truth is that there’s genuine love here,” he said in a November interview. “It’s amazing even just how much I’ve grown as a person since I’ve been here. They’ve allowed me to become who I need to be. I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff or a better program.”

The not-so-secret sauce? Hard work.

“I think things are going pretty consistently well for me because I work out a lot,” Brown-Jones said. “I’m always in the gym working out and getting better.”

“It’s impossible to get better at something if you don’t work at it,” he added.

Brown-Jones has been the model of consistency as well. He made headlines right out of the gate, dropping 24 points and 17 points in back-to-back road games against power five opponents Vanderbilt and Arkansas, the latter being an upset win.

Since then, he’s dropped at least 20 points in nine different outings, had a stretch of three January games in which he averaged 35.6 points, and has scored fewer than 10 points just three times. 

It’s safe to say that Brown-Jones has been the driving force for a UNC Greensboro team that sits at 19-8 and 10-4 in Southern Conference play, good for a second-place tie in the league as conference tournament play nears. 

“I’ve been really taking what the defense gives me, not trying to force anything,” he said. “I’ve just been capitalizing with the ball, and taking open looks.”

And as he’s continued to produce, coaches’ message to him has been simple.

“Keep going, keep doing whatever it is I’m doing,” he said. “They want me to stay confident and stay in the moment.”

For Brown-Jones, though, one of the keys to this season was leadership. Last season, part of the reason for his bench-player status was a surplus of experienced seniors on the Spartans’ roster. 

That situation, for one, provided Brown-Jones the opportunity to transition into the program as a brand-new transfer, and get comfortable without being thrust into a go-to-guy role. 

“I knew coming in that I wasn’t going to be a starter, but I was perfectly fine with that,” Brown-Jones said in November, referencing his redshirt junior season. “It helped me much more than I thought it would, because I was able to see those guys and how hard they worked, and how they went about things in a program I was new to.”

“Watching those guys helped me for what’s happening now,” he added, “becoming a leader on this team.  

He knew full well, though, that he’d be called into the line of leadership as a senior, and spent his offseason prioritizing that task. 

For Brown-Jones, leadership comes by example. He’s not much for delivering messages, but he believes his leadership is simply on display in what he does each day. 

He’s constantly in the gym. He’s constantly working on various aspects of his game. And it’s clearly paying off — the numbers don’t lie.

And the Spartans’ younger players, Brown-Jones said, can see exactly what they need to do in order to be successful, right in front of their eyes, in his example. 

“The guys not only see me working so hard in the gym, they also see the results I’m getting from it,” he said. “I think what I’m doing now is contagious, because I’ve started to see a lot of guys work on their game a lot more, so they can be their best fit for the team.”

It’s that same work ethic that Brown-Jones would preach to his younger self, he said, if given the opportunity.

If he could interact with the early-college version of himself that struggled to find minutes on the floor — and make the most of those minutes — at VCU, Brown-Jones would reiterate the same message he aims to portray to his up-and-coming teammates. 

“Stay in the gym,” he reiterated. “As much as possible. Don’t let outside distraction influence what you’ve got going on.”

And as he looks ahead, he’s really not focused on the end game. Postseason play is, of course, any team’s goal, but it’s not what’s on the front of his mind. His formula is much more simple than that.  

He just wants to put more work in tomorrow; the rest will work itself out.

 “Just win the next game,” he said. 

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