Charlie Brown Jr. to Sixers is Latest of Blue Coats Success Stories
It’s straight out of Hollywood:
Local kid who grew up going to 76ers games goes on to make the team and inspire the city.
"It's a blessing to be home and doing what I love to do at the highest level,” said Northeast Philly native and Saint Joseph’s University product Charlie Brown Jr. of his then-10-day contract experience with the Sixers.
On Jan. 11, Brown Jr. inked a two-way contract with the Sixers, solidifying his roster spot.
A 76ers two-way player is also eligible to provide services to the team’s NBA G League affiliate – the Delaware Blue Coats.
As it happens, Brown Jr. played 11 games with the Blue Coats earlier this season. In those 11 contests (all starts), he averaged 16.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 30.0 minutes per game. The third-year pro, not yet on an NBA contract at the time, was a regular starter for a group with an irregular starting lineup.
"It's the most fun league to coach in, because you really get to coach,” said Blue Coats head coach Coby Karl of the G League during Sixers training camp. “And then it's the most difficult, because players are popping in and out. It really makes you be present. You can't really get ahead of yourself. You really have to teach on a daily basis. It's going to change. It's really helped me in my life and in my career to stay present and not get ahead of myself.”
A Championship Run
Demarcus Holland is a Blue Coats guard who previously played for Karl with the South Bay Lakers. The 27-year-old Holland knows the G League is about development, yes, but also adaptability:
"I think people need to give credit to players who are able to adapt,” Holland said during a preseason conversation in early November. “There are so many changes throughout a G League season.”
This year, even the schedule was different.
A new G League format this season began with each team playing 12 games to determine seeding for the $100K, winner-takes-all NBA G League Winter Showcase Cup in Las Vegas. The Blue Coats earned the top seed with an 11-1 start.
Including the three wins in tournament play needed to capture the title, Delaware utilized 12 different starting lineups in 15 games. They were crowned Winter Showcase Cup champions.
— Delaware Blue Coats (@blue_coats) December 23, 2021
"When I met Prosper [Karangwa], our general manager, we talked about how the model for us in the G League is 'Be Water,' Karl said during the championship celebration. “And, to us, that's adaptability, meeting the moment, figuring it out. These guys have done it. They've been practicing it. Everyone in the lineup steps up. Different positions, different matchups, different opportunities versus really good opponents. That's what it's been for us."
“There may be NBA call-ups, NBA call-downs, injuries, and you're playing more games than you did in college,” said Holland. “So you have to be prepared. I just think the adaptability that the players have to have is something to commend."
One such call-up was Charlie Brown Jr.
Prior to the Sixers, the Dallas Mavericks signed Brown Jr. to a 10-day contract on Dec. 21. The deal became official with the Blue Coats still needing two victories in Vegas.
So how did it feel when they got the job done?
"It felt good. We came here to handle business,” said Showcase Cup MVP Jarron Cumberland, smiling and surrounded by teammates and staff.
Cumberland did not start a single game during the seeding portion of the schedule. Three days after the Blue Coats championship, on Christmas Day, he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers. The 24-year-old Cumberland became the second of what is now a single season franchise-record five Blue Coats to earn NBA call-ups during the 2021-22 season (Note: Delaware has 25 total GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA in nine seasons).
Shaquille Harrison preceded Cumberland. Then Haywood Highsmith landed a deal. The Sixers went on to bring in Brown Jr. and Braxton Key.
"Just bringing my energy,” reflects Brown Jr. “With the Blue Coats, they always talk about being water. Being able to come in and have high energy. Have good character, be a good person, work hard."
It was early October, some 20 days before Charlie Brown Jr. even became a Blue Coat. Coby Karl addressed the media for the first time as a member of the 76ers organization. Part of the coach’s message was simple:
"Our staff in Delaware is going to try to build up these young men and make them really valuable assets for this organization.”
That mission - a mission already accomplished - continues as the Blue Coats forge ahead, and the NBA G League regular season takes shape.