BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — In one of the surprises of last summer, high school basketball star Sydney Brown made the decision to forego her senior year at Shenendehowa in favor of spending two years at a prep school.
A year later, Brown said she has no regrets about the move.
“It was something I knew I needed to do if I wanted to get to the next level,” Brown said this past week.
Brown — the 17-year-old daughter of Derek Brown, a former NFL player — reclassified back a year and headed to Blair Academy, a boarding school in Blairstown, N.J. She started for her new team and kept an interested eye on her old one, which made a run this past winter to the state semifinals.
“But I knew they were still going to have a great team this year,” Brown said. “I was happy for them.”
At the moment, Brown is playing for the New Jersey Demons, a team that practices in Perth Amboy, N.J. and plays in tournaments around the country. The team’s travels this summer will take Brown to events in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and more — but she said she’s more interested in the team’s practices than games this summer.
“The workouts are what I need there,” Brown said. “The games are good, too, but the workouts are what I need to practice my guard skills for college.”
In between her travels from Clifton Park to New Jersey, Brown sat down with the Gazette to talk about her past year and what’s up next for her.
Q: You made your choice last summer to reclassify and head to Blair Academy. How did you come to that decision?
A: Honestly, my parents didn’t even really know I was really going to do it. [Laughs]. But I’ve been a homebody my whole life and I knew I needed to make the decision if I wanted to play at the next level. . . . The decision itself happened quickly. After my last Shen season [in 2015-16], I didn’t know that was going to be my last Shen season. But once I got into the summer, I knew [going to prep school] was something that definitely was needed for me.
Q: Why’s that?
A: I really had no idea where I wanted to go to college, so that was one of the big things. Last year was going to be my last year of AAU [if I had stayed at Shenendehowa] and I really had no idea what I wanted, what I wanted to study, or anything. Also, a lot of colleges recruiting me wanted me to develop my guard skills, so the extra year of playing a true guard spot has really helped me. This was the best thing for me. . . . Honestly, getting away from home has better prepared me for college.
Q: What’s life like at Blair?
A: It’s so cool there, so diverse. People are there from all different countries and it’s completely different in that way. It was a really great experience. . . . There are a few kids from the city, but other than that there were girls from Jamaica, Hong Kong, everywhere. One girl on my team was from Nigeria. A lot of kids are there for sports, but there’s also kids there just for better educations.
Q: What’s the competition level Blair plays at? Is it a similar schedule to playing for a Section II high school?
A: It’s a little different. There are not as many prep schools [in our league], so we play so many non-conference games that it’s maybe more similar to an AAU schedule. We play a lot of city teams and we’re in a lot of good tournaments. . . . We’ll go to the city a lot to play, we went to D.C. We usually play between Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the city.
Q: After your basketball season, you were able to travel to Kenya through your school. What was that like?
A: That was so awesome. My coach has a non-profit in Kenya, and he’s built two schools there. I got the opportunity to go there and it was so cool. We helped out at the school, played basketball with them, helped in the classroom. It was over my spring break, so we went for 10 days in March.
Q: Where do things stand with your college recruitment?
A: I actually just visited William & Mary, Wake Forest — both unofficial visits — and I was at a Clemson camp. That’s a few of the schools. I have other interest from
UPenn, Columbia, Providence. That’s pretty much where I’m at. I have offers from William & Mary, Providence, UMass and George Washington. Last year, I had no idea what I
wanted. Right now, I’m still open to anything. I definitely needed the extra year.
Q: Any timeline on your college decision?
A: I’m hoping by the beginning of next school year to have it all figured out.