- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

WILMINGTON, N.C. Kwame Brown catches the basketball near the foul line, where he has grown comfortable. And as he has done countless times, the 6-foot-11 rookie blows by his first defender hoping to find his path to the basket clear.
But instead of swooping in for the kind of basket that might have made the highlight reels in his hometown of Brunswick, Ga., Brown's path is clogged by bodies as large as his. The result: Brown, caught in mid-air with nowhere to go, loses control of the ball and is charged with a turnover.
This isn't a cause for alarm. Brown, whom the Washington Wizards made the top pick in the draft and the first player selected No. 1 straight from high school has had his moments in training camp. And everyone, from Michael Jordan and coach Doug Collins down, talks glowingly about his vast potential.
But Brown has reached the point where so much is being thrown at him, physically and most notably mentally.
"Kwame's head is spinning right now," Collins says of his prize rookie. "What's happened now is that his ability is negated because he's thinking so much about where he's supposed to be and what he's supposed to do."
"Basketball overload," says reserve forward Popeye Jones.
Brown, this time last year a senior at Glynn Academy, got his first taste of the NBA this summer at the Pro Summer League in Boston. In seven games, Brown averaged 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Wizards' team.
But the Wizards weren't practicing twice a day, as they are in training camp, and they weren't actually preparing for the rigors of an 82-game season. Now that they are, everything has changed. Collins won't hesitate to tear into Brown or any other player when they make a mental mistake. Now Brown must do more than catch the ball and dunk over a helpless high schooler who might not be good enough to play Division III basketball.
"This is different than seeing it on television," Brown says. "I just played against Jahidi [White] and that's the strongest individual I've ever played against in my life, and got knocked down at one point. I'm going to take a beating by a lot of guys in the NBA for a while, then hopefully I'll be able to give some."
Brown has found out that even some of preseason preparations might have been a mistake. When he was drafted, Brown weighed almost 240 pounds. However, he has taken to lifting weights and has bulked up to "around" 252 pounds.
Brown has the type of frame that eventually will allow him to carry that much weight and more, perhaps. But the belief is that at 19, Brown is not yet strong enough to handle that much, and Collins wants to see him get back down to around 245.
"He wants me to get down there, but if these guys keep throwing me around I'm going to want to put it back on," Brown laughs.
Because of his age, Brown will get much stronger and his body will continue to fill out. But the little things that veteran NBA big men do instinctively have Brown flustered. Over the weekend he admitted he's having trouble boxing out for rebounds, which is very basic basketball.
And he's also having some trouble with his footwork, which is not surprising considering he by-passed college. In an effort to shorten the learning curve, Brown has attached himself to veterans like Christian Laettner and Jones, working with both before and after practices.
Laettner called Brown "a great kid" following a recent workout in which the two worked on drills. During the drill, Brown seemingly had Laettner beaten to the basket. But at the last minute, Laettner slapped the ball out of Brown's hands from behind, and the ball rolled out of bounds.
Brown's frustration was visible, but instead of letting him pout, Laettner shot him a barrage of encouraging words and the two went at it again.
"You don't want him getting down on himself. I'm a pro player and I'm going to slap the ball out of your hands sometimes," Laettner says. "Or if you're guarding me, I'm a pro player and I'm going to score on you sometimes.
"Just don't get too disappointed in yourself or get down on yourself. Realize that you're only 19. Realize that you're only a rookie and that you're going to be a great player once you realize some things."
What Collins has found out about Brown is that even if he does have a bad practice, he is mentally strong enough to put it behind him before the team's next workout. To that end, Collins is quick to praise Brown when he does well.
"He's getting better every day," Collins says. "He's going to be a terrific player. Right now he gets frustrated because he wants to do better, but that's to be expected. Even if he went to college he'd be struggling right now with all the stuff that's getting thrown at him."
Note The Wizards will hold a scrimmage at Trask Coliseum today. Jordan, who grew up here, hinted he would be on display briefly in the game.
"I'm still trying to get in shape," Jordan said. "Obviously for the little time that I'm going to be on court I'd like to play well. But I'll play within what my capabilities are. I know that it's the hometown crowd and everybody wants to see me in midseason form. But by no means am I there yet. They may see some glimmers."

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