Good things happen when Elton Brand is on the court. After averaging 25.9 points and 16.2 rebounds per game
as a senior to lead Peekskill (N.Y.) to its second straight state title, Brand went on to help coach Mike
Krzyzewski's Duke squad advance to the 1999 NCAA title game and become the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft.
Now recovered from an injured Achilles tendon that kept him out of all but eight games last season, Brand will bring
his good vibes to the Philadelphia 76ers, where the two-time All-Star signed this offseason after spending seven
years with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 6-foot-8 power forward is expected to take his place alongside Charles Barkley and Dr. J in Sixers lore, but he still remembers a time when he was just trying to get noticed.
RISE: Coming from a small town, did you feel you had to play extra hard to get recognized?
Brand: Without a doubt. When I was in high school, all
the New York City kids got the press, and I used that
as motivation. That's why I made the most out of AAU
ball. I really enjoyed AAU. It definitely exposed me to
some great coaches, such as Coach K. Because of
AAU basketball, I had the opportunity to play with
and against some of the best athletes in the country.
RISE: How did a New Yorker like yourself end up at Duke?
Brand: I didn't want to stay home -- I wanted to get
away from the area. I picked Duke for academics as well
as basketball. I knew with a degree from Duke I could
get my mom a house if basketball didn't pan out.
RISE: What do you miss most about high school?
Brand: I miss the camaraderie, winning the championship
and the guys working hard at every game. In
Peekskill, I was in a small league at the time, but it
was still very fun and was a great experience.
RISE: How has your game changed from high school to today?
Brand: In high school, I was able to use power and
size because I was one of the bigger players on the
court. When you go to the pros and play power forward
at 6-8, you are rarely the biggest player on the
floor, so I've had to develop a finesse game as well as
a mid-range jumper.
RISE: Do you think other players should follow Brandon Jennings' lead and go pro overseas rather than play college ball?
Brand: To me, that is not a good move. You have to
understand that you are playing with guys that have
been professional since 16-17 years of age, and they
aren't going to allow you to make a name off of them.
RISE: What would you tell high school ballers hoping to make it to the NBA?
Brand: My advice to any high school student is to
try to go to college and study economics and learn
about money. Every kid should have some sense of
the real world and an understanding of money in
order to be successful and have a meaningful
career in the NBA.
Jay Corbin is the Sneaker Sensei and ESPN RISE Magazine's lifestyle editor.