By the time he turned 13, Brown was 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds. He began competing for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, a youth travel team, under Leo Papil, a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers who once worked for the Celtics.
Brown’s mother, Roberta, saw her athletic ability and wished she had access to more educational resources at Wakefield. So Brown awoke at the crack of dawn to board a bus to the suburbs. By his senior year, he was at Vermont Academy and Division I college scouts from around the country were calling Simpson, Pappille and his coach Alex Pope at Vermont Academy to inquire about him.
Brown would ride a three-hour bus from Vermont to Boston on Thursday night, take his high school classes farther away on Friday, and then fly to Indiana, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia for games with the BABC team.
Brown’s parents were divorced, and her mother moved to Atlanta for a job at Delta Air Lines, and was unable to live with her father in the Boston area. Papile installed them in a small basement apartment under the New York Pizza Store in a popular building in Roxbury. Papile said colloquially known as the club among BABC players, the building serves as an office and a bed and breakfast. “Bruce could run up the stairs and they would connect him to the pizza,” he said. “It was very family oriented.”
With the advice of Papile, Simpson and others, Brown chose to play college basketball at Florida for the University of Miami and spent two seasons under coach Jim Larranaga, averaging 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 52 games, as a starter. In 48. He toured Wakefield between his two seasons, and Simpson opened a school gym for him to practice – the same gym where he dazzled his teammates and his coaches with stings and his penance.
“He is that blue-collar, straight-lace player who will get the ball either way,” Papielle said. “This role on a superteam like Nets is priceless.”