Hoops a way of life for Palisade sisters
There’s the quick one, the shooter, the finesse one and the young, talented one.
There’s the senior leader, the junior point guard, the super sophomore and the freshman phenom.
They are the Brown sisters at Palisade High School.
Forget the Joneses, it’s all about keeping up with the Browns on the basketball court for Palisade.
Having four sisters all playing on the same high school varsity basketball team is as rare as a flawless diamond, but each one of the Brown sisters is a gem in her own right.
Here they are: Jenna, the senior post player; Casey, the junior point guard; Ashlyn, the sophomore shooting guard; and Christa, the freshman forward.
The Brown sisters — they all play, they all contribute, they all love basketball — LOVE basketball!
The are a play-by-play announcer’s nightmare. Brown passes the ball to Brown, Brown with the shot, Brown with the rebound, Brown with bucket. That just doesn’t work. A first name is needed every time.
Palisade head coach Danielle Bagwell is just used to it now.
“Christa Brown, don’t force it!”
“Jenna Brown, look inside!”
“Good job, Ashlyn Brown!”
“Casey Brown, push it, go, go!”
These are the Browns: all sisters, but none are twins; each a different type of player with varied talents.
Each smiles when asked what it’s like to form a sister foursome on the court. They also offer tiny shrugs. It really is no big deal to them. They aren’t really sisters on the court. Rather, they are teammates with a common goal to help the Bulldogs win.
As the oldest, Jenna has been the leader.
“I’m really happy for all my younger sisters and my team,” Jenna says. “I’m really happy that I could be a leader to them. But they’re all good players, and they’re all leaders, too.”
All are well-spoken and offer understated comments when talking about the others and themselves.
After years of practicing and playing together, it’s that familiarity that helps them click on the court.
“It’s exciting to play together,” Casey says. “We know each other really well and we know how each of us likes to play the game.”
A Special Season
Regardless of age, each Brown sister plays like a veteran.
“Everyone is the same age to me, and we all just play like we’re the same age,” Casey says.
Last summer, the girls played on AAU Shining Stars teams in Golden. Every weekend Mom and Dad (Jeff and Darcy Brown) loaded up the sisters and took them to the Front Range to play games. More valuable experience for the foursome.
Christa, the freshman, rarely looks like she’s in her first season as a varsity player. Her 140 points through 17 games are four points behind team leader Aspen Guray, and Christa leads the team in rebounds, averaging a little more than six per game.
The freshman doesn’t play like a freshman. Watching her fluid moves and court awareness, it’s obvious she has greatly benefited from the education provided by her three older sisters.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time. It’s been really fun this year,” she says.
As the freshman, expectations are still rising for Christa, who admits she feels a little pressure to excel.
“Sometimes,” she says with a smile, talking about the pressure getting to her. “I just don’t try to think about it. I just go out there and play my game.”
Basketball is a powerful link between the sisters, but is it too much?
“Sometimes, when I need to take a break, I use basketball as a break,” she says. “If I ever need a break from my sisters, I just go and do something by myself, work on my individual game outside.”
Casey is impressed with how quickly the youngest sister has developed her game.
“Christa works really hard, and she’s had to because she’s been playing against us and practicing over the years,” Casey says.
As the shortest of the foursome, Casey, the point guard, likes to play fast.
She pushes the ball and runs the offense. Her basketball IQ is evident when she plays and when she talks about the game.
The basketball IQ is high with all the sisters. They understand the game and the nuances that make for successful play.
From understanding passing lanes to making pinpoint entry passes to using screens to get the open shot to calling timeout while jumping on a loose ball, each Brown sister consistently demonstrates her basketball knowledge on the court.
Ashlyn, who is the main outside threat for the Bulldogs and hit three 3-pointers in a game this season, said the game clicked for her when she was in eighth grade.
This season is special because the sisters are all playing in high school, she said. It’s also a rewarding situation because they’re all different types of players.
“It’s been awesome. We all play different positions, so it’s nice to play with them,” she says.
Bagwell likes the dynamic the sisters bring to the team.
“Because they have such a great and close relationship, you can challenge them more, and they go after each other hard,” she says, emphasizing the word “hard.”
Bagwell says they understand the tough-love philosophy that comes from a coach at times.
“Where other kids might get their feelings hurt, they go home and laugh it off,” Bagwell says, then smiles. “Well, they might go home and have fist fights, who knows? But they definitely challenge each other and make each other better.
“It does bring a different element in practice, but it’s a good element.”
Influenced by Dad
It’s the rarity of their situation that has drawn the sisters into the headlines. But so has their play on the court. They are all extremely conscious of the team and their role within that team concept.
These aren’t superstars or prima donnas. These are gracious, humble, hard-working, competitive teammates.
Jenna was the first to play the game, then each subsequent sister followed an older sister onto the court.
Each sister says there’s was one influence who got them involved with the game: Dad.
“My dad was always talking about his basketball days from high school, and when the city league started, I joined,” Jenna says.
Jeff Brown’s love of basketball dates back to when he was a player at Paonia High School.
He nods, admitting he was a pretty fair high school player: leading scorer, leading rebounder and top defensive player for the Eagles in his senior year back in 1983.
Jeff isn’t boastful when he talks about his playing days. His focus and pride is squarely on his four daughters. But he knows the game, has studied the game and coached his daughters when they were younger.
His love of basketball has never deflated, and he made sure to guide his daughters toward the game early on.
“It’s just a sport that I really enjoy,” the 48-year-old dad says. “I told the girls when they were real young that this is a sport they could play and enjoy even if they didn’t do it competitively.”
The girls’ migration to the sport was quick and efficient, and it’s obvious they all grabbed hold of the game with the same gusto as Dad.
Jeff admits he pushes and encourages his kids, and much of that pushing was toward basketball.
“They played other sports, of course,” he says, then smiles. “But Dad made sure that basketball was the most important sport.”
Jeff doesn’t back away from saying he pushed his daughters over the years. But he did it through encouragement and positive reinforcement.
“I did my share,” he says about trying to motivate his daughters. “I knew what they could do to help themselves and how to improve.
“They have to take the initiative to go out there and shoot shots on their own without someone pushing them. But they still have to be reminded to go out there and put in the time.”
Naturally, Dad wasn’t about to say who he thinks is the best player.
“They’re all different types of players,” he says.
None of the sisters would take the bait when asked which one is the best player — or best shooter, or dribbler, or passer, or which one is the supreme champion of the game of H-O-R-S-E.
Jeff’s daughters also say Dad was right out there practicing with them over the years. And he doesn’t cut them any slack when he plays.
“My dad’s pretty good,” Jenna says with a smile.
“Dad tries to beat us,” Ashlyn says about playing H-O-R-S-E, then grins. “But he’s not able to beat us much anymore.”
Jeff laughs when told about that comment.
“They’re right,” he said. “I can’t beat them anymore.”
The sisters’ love of the game is evident now.
“What they’re doing and their drive for the game is not from me. They’ve taken it really far on their own,” Jeff says.
This season, the four Brown sisters have had a huge impact on the Bulldogs.
None of the four think it’s that big of a deal that they’re all playing together, many times all on the court at the same time.
It’s no big deal because they’ve been playing together and pushing each other to be better for more than five years.
The four Brown sisters have been delivering for the Bulldogs all season, offering a resounding answer to the question: “What can Brown do for you?”
They are just teammates who happen to be sisters.