Kezo Brown leaned back and screamed as the buzzer went off on Sunday at Chicago State. The Simeon junior was celebrating a city title and his own personal redemption. Brown scored 26 points to lead the Wolverines to a 68-64 victory against arch-rival Morgan Park. It’s Simeon’s eighth city title.
At this point last year that scenario seemed very unlikely. Brown barely played during his sophomore year, he was never in game-shape after suffering a serious health issue the summer before the season.
“Last year I wasn’t feeling it,” Brown said. “I was all upset about myself and things that happened to me but that’s over and down with. Now I’m just back.”
Brown burst onto the scene in his first varsity game at the Chicago Elite Classic his freshman season. National talent evaluators drooled over his speed and skill and the colleges started calling. That stopped last year and it was a long road back to the spotlight. Brown said there were times when he doubted himself.
“I did, but god brought me back from that situation,” Brown said.
Brown was 8-for-14 from the field, but it was a team win for the Wolverines (24-3). Messiah Jones had six points and seven rebounds. It was his tip in with 48 seconds left that put Simeon ahead for good. He helped seal the win with a crucial blocked shot and rebound with 20 seconds to play.
Simeon senior Evan Gilyard finished with 18 points. He asserted himself at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring six consecutive points to give Simeon a three-point lead.
“I just go out there and let the game come to me,” Gilyard said. “It just comes to me in the fourth quarter, it is almost always like that.”
Dosunmu led Morgan Park (19-6) with 16 points and five assists. Melo Burrell scored 15 and grabbed 10 rebounds and Lenell Henry scored 15.
Smith shared an emotional moment with Brown after the win.
“You’ve never seen me hug any of my players after a game before,” Smith said. “That was all for him, all the stuff he’s been through. Now he’s smiling and competing at a high level. It’s just a blessing that he’s out there.”
Simeon dominated the boards in the second half, largely due to Madison Lowery’s contributions off the bench. He finished with five boards. The game was scrappy until the fourth quarter, when both teams played their best for eight minutes.
“It was unbelievable, it was a college game,” Smith said. “The fans got exactly what they wanted. It was an exciting game.”
There was a significant security presence at the arena. More than a dozen police officers stood at the four corners of the court throughout the game. The event went off without a hitch.
The high-major colleges will return to recruit Brown over the next few months. They disappeared through his troubles, but his teammates never doubted him.
“Not at all,” Gilyard said. “Kezo is strong, I knew he’d get back to where he is supposed to be.”