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Auburn Riverside's Derek Brown snags SPSL 4A hoop scoring title
Auburn Riverside boys basketball coach Jason Brown knew he had a special player on his hands when junior Derek Brown turned out for the Raven squad last summer.
Silky smooth on the court, with a well developed jump shot and passion for the game, Jason – in his first year at the helm of the Auburn Riverside varsity program – knew he had the piece he needed to build a winning tradition.
“He was developed,” Jason said. “He’s played the game a lot, and he has a lot of passion for it. There is still a lot he needs to learn and there is room for growth, but we like to have the ball in his hands.”
What Jason and the rest of the program couldn’t know was how much Derek would grow in his game as a junior. He ended the season as the South Puget Sound League’s leading scorer – scoring an average of 22 points per game – and was honored as an all-league second teamer.
Derek’s prep career began at Todd Beamer High School.
As a freshman he showed flashes of brilliance, scoring 19 points against Puyallup in 2011.
“I felt like I had earned something at Beamer,” Derek said. “I was getting a lot of playing time.”
Not long after that game, however, tragedy struck Derek and his family when his mother, Talitha Bible, overdosed.
Derek said he clung to basketball to cope.
Even though he scored 12 points against Bethel the day after his mother died, something wasn’t quite right.
“Once my mom went away, I felt like I lost something on the court, also,” Derek said. “I felt like my shot went away. And I didn’t know how to get it back. It took a lot out of me.”
Derek moved in with his sister, Shatoya Simmons, in Auburn. As a sophomore, he said, he was still committed to playing basketball at Beamer, taking the bus every morning to Federal Way to attend school.
“I was getting up every morning at 4 o’clock, trying to catch the bus to get to school,” Derek said. “And trying to maintain good grades and get to bed early so I would have enough energy through the day.”
He struggled on the court, averaging just 3.1 ppg. He said he just didn’t feel like he fit in with the team anymore.
“(Coach) just didn’t trust me anymore, and I could tell at the end of my freshman year,” he said. “It wasn’t the right fit for me anymore.We had a team meeting where my coach said we only had five players who could score 20 points in a game. And I wasn’t included in that. And I thought ‘wow, you don’t think I can score 20 points.’”
So Derek switched to Auburn Riverside.
For Jason, eager to begin the process of building a winning tradition with the Raven boys, Derek was an obvious choice as a cornerstone for the program.
“He’s a very charming young man. Once you get around him, he puts you very much at ease,” Jason said. “He’s a very confident person and very caring and compassionate.”
Jason said he and the other Auburn Riverside coaches immediately set about cementing a bond with Derek.
“He’s very coachable, once you build his trust, which me and the other coaches were able to do,” Brown said. “I think it was a big relief for him that we weren’t going to judge him or give him special treatment.”
Derek responded immediately, averaging more than 26 ppg through the first four games, then hitting for 49 against Kentridge.
“The threes just kept going in,” Derek said. “I had my consistency going, my coach was believing in me and most of my team was believing in me. My sister and brothers were in the stands, cheering me on. I was just feeling it.”
The feat earned him an Auburn Riverside record and attention from several colleges and the national media.
At one point, MaxPreps.com ranked him the No. 3 junior guard in the country.
Despite his performance this season, however, the Ravens struggled, finishing the season 6-14 overall. And for all the personal accolades, it’s the team’s win-loss record that really matters to Derek.
“I’ve absolutely made some big, huge steps this year,” Derek said. “I’ve improved in all areas. But I want to win games. If I score five points and my team is winning, I’m happy with that. Individual awards don’t matter, I want team ones. I want to win state. That’s my goal, put Riverside on the map.”