The 6-foot-7 junior forward recovered from a broken right ankle injury last year just in time for the Region 5AAAAAA playoffs and helped lead the Wildcats to the region title and a berth in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAA state championship.
Fully healthy, Brown remained a catalyst for Wheeler, guiding the Wildcats to a 28-6 overall record, 13-1 mark in region play, another region title and a Class AAAAAA state runner-up finish.
“I’ve been trying to make up a lot of time,” Brown said. “I broke my right ankle in my sophomore year before the season started, so I had to sit out a while. I was out until the second half of the season and came back a couple of games before the region championships started. So, junior year I just tried to make up for lost time, and I think I did a good job with that.”
Brown rebounded in a big way for Wheeler, averaging 20 points and five assists per game.
“It was tough,” Brown said about his recovery. “Loving the game so much and not being able to play was tough. Having to sit around and watch and find the strength to motivate your teammates was hard. It was all mental. Trying to stay focused and to stay positive and try to continue to get better everyday.”
For his stellar season, Brown was named the Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I was excited and was thankful,” Brown said of the award. “I was blessed to be given such an honor. I was disappointed at how my season ended, so this was a bright spot to be named Cobb County player of the year.
“We had a fantastic season. We had a winning record out of town, and I think we only had two losses in the state of Georgia. So, I’m proud of my team. I just felt like we should have finished stronger than we did.”
Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb praised Brown’s effort on and off the court.
“I’m very happy for Jaylen,” Lipscomb said. “He’s a tremendous talent and he’s done a lot for our program. He’s a very good student and has always been dedicated to getting better on and off the court.”
Wheeler’s loss in the 2013 state semifinals played a big role in motivating Brown this past season.
“That loss we took in the final four last year fueled everything for me this year,” he said. “That’s why I’m so disappointed we didn’t get (the championship this) year because I’d been working so hard, and I know my teammates had been working so hard with me. So, that loss last year was key. It gave me enough fuel to get to the championship game, and next year I should have enough fuel to win it all.”
Brown’s unique skill sets provide a major boost to the Wildcats’ program. He can pass, dribble, shoot 3-pointers, rebound and guard every position on the floor if asked. Which is what makes him so versatile.
“I can do a lot of things,” Brown said. “I can make plays for my teammates and make plays for my team as a whole. I feel like I can do everything on the court.
“I play point forward. I’m okay with shooting threes, but I have to remain consistent over the long stretches of the season. That’s something I’m working on right now. Just staying consistent with my jump shot and consistent with my ball handling and stuff like that. Just tighten up those things. That’s what I’ll be working on this summer so I can come back stronger next year.”