AIR JORDAN: 6-9 freshman gives Roseville's Woodcreek basketball program high hopesBy: Garrett Phillpott■of the Press Tribune (Video by Jake Soriano)
Varsity basketball players at Woodcreek High have a new teammate to look up to.
They really don’t have a choice in the matter.
Standing at a height of 6 feet, 9 inches, Jordan Brown towers over the rest of the students on campus, even though he’s only a freshman.
Brown’s aptitude for the hardwood doesn’t end where his tremendous wingspan leaves off. He’s a sharpshooting post player with handles and the accolades to prove it.
Brown is the No. 2 ranked freshman recruit in the nation according to future150.com. He recently attended a Team USA camp in Colorado Springs for a shot at being chosen for international competition in the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, 2015 U16 FIBA Americas, 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship and 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
Brown was one of only two NorCal players selected to attend the camp.
"I'm a lot taller than everyone, which allows me to keep the ball up in the post,” Brown said. “I also have an extended reach, which helps my range and allows me to take an outside jump shot.”
The AAU star for Sacramento-based Play Hard Play Smart is thankful for the opportunity to play for Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes at the varsity level.
“It feels really cool because I know that a lot of guys don't get this opportunity that I have,” Brown said.
Brown’s hoops prestige has had the school buzzing since the start of fall sports, but he’s just one more weapon for Hayes and a Woodcreek squad that returns all kinds of talent.
The Timberwolves also have senior guard Noah Blackwell, an AAU star with a giant social media presence. He recently signed to play collegiate basketball at Long Beach State University and is ranked No. 28 among the top-50 California seniors by ESPN.
“My outlook on the season hasn't really changed,” Blackwell said. “I'm going to work hard everyday, help make my teammates better and work hard to accomplish our goals as a team.
“I want to be remembered as somebody who works hard, never gives up, and always fights for what he wants.”
The roster also includes football sensation Malcolm Thomas, one of the best wide receivers in the area.
“I would love to come out as a team and avenge the losses that we suffered during the football season, get some victories and see how it feels to win again,” Thomas said. “I really do love football. I have enjoyed playing both, but football will always be my main sport.”
The Timberwolves also return seniors Grady Collins and Jake Dirkes.
"I'm really looking forward to going to practice everyday, building a companionship with the team, and becoming a family," Collins said. “I'm excited to see what we can do, and I hope that we can do ourselves justice,"
Dirkes, also a baseball player and a known jokester in the Woodcreek locker room, opened up about his own expectations and his high-profile teammate.
“Noah has definitely contributed the most,” Dirkes said. “I see a lot of myself in him.”
He didn’t miss the opportunity to dream big, with a big grin.
“Just so happens to be that I'm talking to Long Beach as well,” Dirkes said. “So we will see what happens.”
Woodcreek was 18-9 last year, 5-5 in the Sierra Foothill League. The team was knocked from playoff contention with a loss to Granite Bay in the regular season finale.
Things aren’t getting any easier.
The Sierra Foothill League added Folsom and Oak Ridge to the conference this year. Though Folsom beat Woodcreek just 64-63 in the preseason, the Bulldogs went on to win a Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal title before their 23-game winning streak ended in the state finals.
Folsom is scheduled to return its top-eight scorers and rebounders. Oak Ridge also made the playoffs last year, joining a gauntlet schedule that also includes SFL champ Del Oro and Granite Bay, Rocklin (both playoff qualifiers) and Nevada Union.
The schedule is a tremendous challenge for coach Hayes, but he’s quick to pump up his squad.
"We're going to be bringing back Noah Blackwell, who's one of the top players in the area and in the whole state,” Hayes said. “Justin Asuncion and Donn Corbin at guard… Thomas Austefjord who brings great intensity every day… Austin English, who was an honorable mention all-league last year… Hunter Konrad who has put on some good weight and gained an inch, and of course Grady and Jake.
“We have some great depth, and a deep bench.”
Hayes also looked to the future.
"Obviously Jordan Brown… he never takes a play off and has a lot of skill,” Hayes said. “Jackson Hughes has shown some great energy. He can shoot the ball, and he's very athletic.
“Kyle Turner shoots the ball really well, and is learning at the varsity level. Alex Patton and Daniel Bush bring it everyday and that helps make practice even that more competitive.”
Hayes and the Timberwolves are ready to rock and roll.
"I tell my boys that if you compete, you play hard, and you do your best, then good things are gonna’ happen,” Hayes said. “I really like the talent that we have this year, and it helps having great depth.
“We are going to put our best foot forward every night out, and set a good example.”
The Timberwolves will open up the season at home against the Casa Roble Rams during the SJS foundation game Dec. 1.
Follow Garrett Phillpott on Twitter, @GPhillpott.
Follow Jake Soriano on Twitter, @juke3jake.