By the time he turned 13, Brown had grown to be 6-foot-1 and 145 pounds. He started competing for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, a youth travel team, under Leo Papile, a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers who once worked for the Celtics.
Brown’s mother, Roberta, saw his athletic ability and wanted him to have access to more educational resources at Wakefield. So Brown woke up at the crack of dawn to get on a bus to the suburbs. By his senior year, he was at Vermont Academy and Division I college scouts from all across the country were calling Simpson, Papile and Alex Popp, his coach at Vermont Academy, to inquire about him.
Brown would take a three-hour bus ride to Boston from Vermont on Thursday nights, take his high school classes remotely on Friday, and then fly to Indiana, Los Angeles or Philadelphia for games with the B.A.B.C. team.
Brown’s parents had divorced, and his mother had moved to Atlanta for a job with Delta Air Lines, and he was unable to stay with his father in the Boston area. Papile set him up in a small basement apartment below a popular New York Pizza store in a building he owned in Roxbury. Colloquially known as The Club among B.A.B.C. players, the building served as an office and a bed-and-breakfast, Papile said. “Bruce could run up the stairs and they would hook him up with pizza,” he said. “It was very family-oriented.”
With advice from Papile, Simpson and others, Brown chose to play college basketball in Florida for the University of Miami and spent two seasons under Coach Jim Larranaga, averaging 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 52 games, 48 as a starter. He visited Wakefield in between his two seasons, and Simpson opened the school’s gym for him to practice — the same gym where he dazzled his peers, and his coaches, with dunks and with his tenacity.
“He’s that blue-collar, strait-laced player who’ll get the ball by any means necessary,” Papile said. “That role is invaluable on a superteam like the Nets.”