Over the last year, Charlie Brown Jr. has gotten the unique opportunity to represent both his country and his city, and he’s relishing every moment of it.
After winning a gold medal with USA Basketball in the 2021 FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup and receiving a call-up to his hometown NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, Brown’s next mission is to help the U.S. 5-on-5 team secure a spot in next year’s FIBA World Cup.
Brown and the U.S. team are in Washington, D.C., preparing to play Colombia Monday in their second World Cup qualifying game for this November window.
For Brown, a 25-year-old shooting guard, it’s all about embracing the opportunity. That’s been his approach the past few years as he’s worked to climb the ranks as a pro as well.
A Philly native, he stayed close to home to attend Saint Joseph’s University, where he averaged 19.0 points per game over three seasons. After going undrafted in 2019, Brown signed his first NBA contract with the Atlanta Hawks and split the 2019-20 season between the Hawks and their NBA G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks.
During his time in Atlanta, Brown was able to learn from seasoned vets like Vince Carter, Evan Turner and Chandler Parsons, and one of the first things he says he noticed was just how focused everyone and everything was.
The following season, Brown spent time on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. He also appeared in nine games for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But before the start of the 2021-22 season, a new opportunity presented itself.
Hearing from his agent about a potential spot available with a USA Basketball team, Brown jumped at the chance to represent his country.
“If I get a chance to put USA across my chest, I’m going to do it,” Brown said.
Brown took his spot on the USA Basketball 3x3 Men’s AmeriCup Team for the 2021 tournament. The 3x3 game is quite different than the traditional 5-on-5 version, but Brown’s ability to adapt to the fast-paced format resulted in him making the team and thriving at the tournament.
“I loved it,” Brown said of the experience. “It was a good competition. It was a different style of basketball, but I caught on quickly.”
Brown joined a roster that included 3x3 veterans Kareem Maddox and Canyon Barry, as well as fellow newcomer Trey Bardsley. With limited time to prepare, Brown says he asked a lot of questions and watched a lot of film to get himself ready.
One of the most memorable games for Brown came in a chippy semifinal matchup with Puerto Rico.
“When we were playing against Puerto Rico, they played extremely hard,” Brown recalled. “And (this tournament) was my first time playing against a foreign team, so I was just trying to pick up on their habits and what they do, their schemes, and stuff like that.”
Brown scored nine points in that game as part of a 21-17 win. The U.S. went on to defeat Brazil in the final, capping off a perfect 5-0 tournament run and capturing the gold medal. With 41 points across those five games, Brown led the team in scoring and was named the tournament MVP.
The AmeriCup experience benefitted Brown in other ways than awards, namely by increasing his exposure and helping him build new connections. Since then, he’s received new opportunities in his 5-on-5 career, both in the NBA and with the national team.
Professionally, a huge moment for Brown came last season when he received an unexpected call from his hometown team, the 76ers. He initially joined the Sixers on a hardship exception deal — given to players called up to fill out NBA rosters affected by positive COVID tests — but was soon elevated to a two-way contract. He appeared in 19 games, including two starts, for the 76ers last season and averaged 8.5 minutes of playing time.
“It was a pretty cool experience being from Philly and inspiring these young kids that don’t come from a lot,” Brown said. “I tried my best when the opportunity presented itself.”
Most recently, he has received another call-up from USA Basketball — this time to join the 5-on-5 team for the penultimate window of World Cup qualifying.
Under the influence of head coach Jim Boylen and alongside vets like Langston Galloway, Brown — who will return to the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ G League affiliate, after this window — is enjoying the experience and trying to soak in as much as possible.
“I’m a fly on the wall,” he said. “I’m trying to learn everything.”
Shawn Smith is a freelance contributor to usab.com.