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Queens Chronicle

Moses Brown named to All-American squad

Hollis native, Archbishop Molloy star looks to cap off his career in style

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Posted: Thursday, February 8, 2018 10:30 am

No one has more reasons to smile than Archbishop Molloy High School basketball star Moses Brown. But unlike thunderous dunks and emphatic blocks, smiling is just not in his vast arsenal of moves.

“He doesn’t do it,” his father, Malcolm, joked. “I don’t know why.”

High school hoopers across the country dream of being as talented as the Hollis resident, a 7-foot, 2-inch center who seems even taller in person.

Over the last two seasons, Brown has skyrocketed toward the top of the charts when it comes to America’s best high schoolers. As of last month, when he announced he would be playing his college ball at UCLA, he was ranked by ESPN as the second-best center and 18th-best player in his class.

And last Thursday, he was feted at his Briarwood school by McDonald’s, as Brown was named to the fast-food chain’s prestigious, 24-man All-America team — arguably the highest honor a high school basketball player can earn.

More than 100 of his classmates turned out for the ceremony in the cafeteria, with dozens of them angling behind the news cameras to snap a photo of him with their cell phones.

So why doesn’t he smile?

The shy, soft-spoken star actually does, more than one would think. But he has to be in a basketball mood, whether on the court or in conversation.

The brief ceremony in his honor came and went without so much as a grin. But after just one look at the McDonald’s banner behind him — featuring the likenesses of former All-Americans turned NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis — he couldn’t help but crack a huge smile.

“I’ve grown up watching these guys play in this game. Now I finally get a chance to play in it,” Brown said of the March 28 contest in Atlanta, which pits 12 players from the East against 12 from the West. “It came from a lot of hard work, dedication and a great supporting staff. I just want to go out there on the court, have a good experience and dominate.”

Entering his freshman season at Molloy, Brown — standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall at the time — was seen as a good player with upside, but maybe not someone who would develop into an elite recruit.

But after he quickly grew six inches and put on 100 pounds, Molloy head coach Mike McCleary said Brown, who joined the varsity team as a sophomore, blossomed more than he could have ever hoped.

“I knew he was going to be good because he has such high hips. I like to say he has his ass between his shoulder blades,” McCleary told the Chronicle. “But the two skills he had was he ran well and he catches everything. He has great hands.

“Those skills, you have to have them. When you put a little determination in there, you get a McDonald’s All-American.”

In just a few years time, Brown earned a reputation as arguably the best recruit in a city normally dominated by talented guards.

Last season, he led Molloy to the Catholic High School Athletic Association championship game, where the Stanners lost in a 64-62 upset to rival Cardinal Hayes.

This year, injuries and inconsistent play have resulted in a roller coaster season for the Stanners, who sat in second place in the Brooklyn-Queens “AA” division with an 11-8 record as of last Friday — 3.5 games behind leader Christ the King.

But Brown has put together another remarkable year, as he leads the league in scoring with 23 points per game to go along with 11 rebounds per contest.

That stellar performance led him to last Thursday, as he became the first McDonald’s All-American selection from Molloy — a school that has produced numerous successful college and professional players — since Kenny Anderson in 1989.

Despite all the distractions, specifically his intense college recruitment and the tremendous media interest in it, the center said he’s been able to compartmentalize everything as best he can.

“This is what comes with it. I prepared myself for it,” Brown said of being a star recruit. “I just have to continue doing what I’m doing.”

But all of that nearly didn’t happen, as there was a worry in the program that Brown might leave Molloy to attend one of the Northeast’s handful of basketball-focused prep schools that many a recruit have opted for over the years.

After his sophomore season, some, including McCleary, worried he would take that route.

But to the coach’s relief, the teenager promised he would remain loyal to Molloy and his teammates, especially heralded junior guard, likely 2019 All-American and close friend Cole Anthony.

“Him staying was a big deal. Everyone was trying to get him, but he was loyal to us,” McCleary said of Brown. “He knows that people here love him and we want to take care of him.”

Fast forward to this year, he added, and the Stanners have had attitude issues — in addition to being bitten by the injury bug.

However, the coach said he sees signs that his team is ready to turn the corner and play their best basketball with the playoffs fast approaching.

“Frankly, it’s difficult. A lot of cameras around. And I think our team was reading their press clippings more than they were playing,” McCleary said. “We have a tendency to get lost in the nonsense instead of getting down to business. But there’s talent on this team and when we’re focused, we’re pretty good.

“I think we are about to make a major step forward,” he added. “I get a sense that they’re realizing that it’s time to get to business.”

Brown feels the same way. When asked if he thinks this year’s Stanners can avenge their 2017 city title game loss, the center said they will do much more than that.

“We’re going to be good. We’ll be all right,” he said. “We’re going to win the state championship this year.”

It would be quite the storybook ending to one of the best careers in Molloy history, but high school success means nothing at the next level.

And playing in the Pac-12 conference next season represents a huge step up in weight class from the CHSAA. Unlike other conferences, the guard-dominated league is known for its fast-paced play.

But the gigantic center said not only will he “definitely” fit in better than one would think, he said he couldn’t dream of a better program to refine his game in than UCLA’s.

“I’ve always liked UCLA. I used to read about John Wooden a lot,” he said of the late legend viewed by many as the greatest coach in American sports history. “When I went on a visit and saw how nice the campus was, how hard the team works and how they consider each other as brothers, that’s what I look for in a team.”

State championshop or not, Brown will be leaving Molloy in the spring.

And while he will leave a void on the roster in more ways than one, both player and coach firmly believe representatives from McDonald’s will be right back in the Briarwood school’s cafeteria in one year.

Despite being just a junior, the athletic Anthony is second in the CHSAA in scoring with 22 points per game.

The son of former NBA star Greg Anthony is the top-ranked guard in next year’s class and has garnered scholarship offers from every major college program under the sun, including UCLA.

“He’s going to be right here,” Brown said, when asked if his teammate is going to be a 2019 All-American. “Same spot.”

But last Thursday was Brown’s day. And right in the crowd of students was a grinning Anthony, pretended to freak out over his friend as if he were Michael Jordan.

“Moses Brown!” Anthony shouted with a grin, his camera phone held high in the air. “I love you!”

All Moses could do was smile back.

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