BOSTON – One of the first things Jaylen Brown picked up on when he arrived in Boston a year ago was that every player had to figure out what their role would be in order to help the Celtics, even if that meant putting some skills on the backburner.
A year older, wiser, stronger – both mentally and physically – has Brown eager to show a more well-rounded game. The folks in Africa are likely to get an up-close look at as Brown and several other NBA players participate in a Team Africa vs Team World game to be played on Saturday at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program.
Team Africa’s roster will include players born in Africa as well as second-generation African players. Their team captain will be Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers; South Sudan). Other members on the Team Africa roster are Thabo Sefolosha (Utah Jazz; Switzerland; parent from South Africa); Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic; Democratic Republic of the Congo); Clint Capela (Houston Rockets; Switzerland; parents from Angola and Congo); Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves; Senegal; BWB Africa 2009); Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011); Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors; Congo); Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2003), Salah Mejri (Dallas Mavericks; Tunisia), Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets; Democratic Republic of the Congo), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers; U.S.; parent from Nigeria) and Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks; Germany; parent from The Gambia).
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks; Germany) will serve as the captain of Team World which in addition to Brown, consists of the following players:
Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets; U.S.); Leandro Barbosa (most recently with the Phoenix Suns; Brazil); Wilson Chandler (Denver Nuggets; U.S.); DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans; U.S.); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons; U.S.); Courtney Lee (New York Knicks; U.S.); Kyle Lowry (Raptors; U.S.), CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers; U.S.) and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks; Latvia).
Proceeds from the game will be used to support UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA).
Brown said this is the first time he has been to Africa, a trip that he will be experiencing along with his mother.
“I’m happy to be here,” Brown said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “They invited me and I jumped on it. So far, we’re enjoying the trip.”
This trip is just the latest installment of what has been a summer filled with moments that show Brown’s growth into being more than just a talented basketball player.
During summer league he organized a get-together among the younger players that was well-received.
He was part of an earlier NBA-related trip to London and Spain.
But this trip is, well, different.
The 20-year-old has a keen eye for history, and is aware of the problems experienced by the South Africa under Apartheid rule which ended in 1994.
But South Africa has made progress since then, and that growth was evident from the moment Brown landed in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“I couldn’t stop smiling” was how Brown described his initial thoughts on the city upon his arrival.
Although Brown is thousands of miles away from home, there’s a familial feel about being in South Africa.
“It doesn’t feel like how people depict Africa is supposed to be,” Brown said. “It feels like a city, a regular city where they have everything. They just have a lot more Black people, to be honest. That’s what it feels like; a regular city, kind of like home.”