CHICAGO – When Bruce Brown, who was a standout guard at the University of Miami, visits Portland in June for a draft workout with the Trail Blazers, there is a good chance a certain memory will be fueling him.
When he was 8 and living in Boston, he remembers huddling in the kitchen with his mom and two siblings
“She didn’t have enough money to get oil for the house,’’ Brown said of his mom. “So we had to open the oven for heat and had to sit by the oven for heat. That stuck with me. I want to get her out of that situation, and (the NBA draft) is a great opportunity.’’
Brown has piqued the interest of the Blazers because of his size (6-foot-5), and his defensive skills on the perimeter, which were shelved the final two months of this season after he broke his left foot. He says the foot has been fully cleared for the past two weeks.
Brown, who averaged 11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season, says his versatility is his strong point and he said he has heard his game compared to that of Boston’s Marcus Smart.
“I can play both ends of the ball,’’ Brown said. “I can guard 1-through-3 and make three’s.’’
Make no mistake, though: Brown’s forte is defense.
“I just know that’s what I do. Growing up I wasn’t the best offensive player, so I had to focus on defense and getting steals,’’ he said. “I just love getting stops and helping my team.’’
He said his focus leading up to the draft is to prove his left foot his healthy, but he said he was confident teams would see his physical strength and stamina. His 3.75 percent body fat was the lowest recorded at the NBA Combine and he said he completed 17 reps of the 185-pound bench press.
“I definitely love the weight room,’’ Brown said. “I used to be a scrawny kid, skinny. But then I just fell in love with the weight room. I love the feeling of being sore.’’
Brown is projected to be a late first round or early second round pick. He said at the Combine that he met with Houston, the Clippers, Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Memphis and Toronto.
He said whichever team picks him will be getting a player that knows how to stoke his own fire. It happened earlier this season, when he was slumping. He thought about what his mother told him: Never forget where you came from.
So from upscale Coral Gables, where the University of Miami resides, Brown said he drove to Miami Gardens, which more resembled his gritty Boston neighborhood.
“I took a drive there and regained that feeling of where I came from,’’ Brown said. “I couldn’t go up to Boston, but it was just a way to see where I came from, the poorness of some of the areas. It grounded me, reminded me.’’
And come June 21, those memories will surface once again.