The Washington Post

Christ Chapel basketball retires Stephen Brown’s number

Christ Chapel retired the No. 2 jersey of Stephen Brown, the school’s all-time leading scorer and first male athlete to land a full Division I scholarship (Courtesy of Christ Chapel Academy).

It’s not often that players like Stephen Brown come through Christ Chapel Academy’s gym, and when they do, they ultimately leave to enjoy success at other schools.

Take for instance 2012-13 All-Met Breyana Mason, who left the Woodbridge private school to play at Forest Park and ultimately earned a scholarship to Virginia. Or 2013-14 All-Met Tre Campbell, who teamed with Brown at Christ Chapel’s middle school team before moving on to St. John’s and signing to play at Georgetown.

Brown, on the other hand, chose to stay the course at the small school, leading the Lions to two VISAA Division III title game appearances and scoring a school-record 2,512 career points to go with his 3.97 GPA. This past season, he earned VISAA Division III Player of the Year honors after averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Prior to his senior year, Brown committed to Bucknell, making him the first male athlete from Christ Chapel to earn a full Division I athletic scholarship.

After Brown’s final game, the Lions coaching staff held on to his No. 2 jersey. The move seemed odd to the 5-foot-10 point guard, but he didn’t think much of it until he found himself on the stage by himself near the end of the school’s annual sports banquet last month.

After Athletic Director John Green and Lions basketball Coach Clinton Simmons Jr. shared a few words about Brown, they pulled out his framed jersey and told the crowd amid applause that the No. 2 was retired from that day forward.

“That night, they said they were doing the basketball awards last, which was weird because they usually go by season,” Brown recalled in a Monday phone interview, “and then after we got our awards, they told me to stay up there. I didn’t want to assume anything, but then they pulled out my jersey and it was just an overwhelming moment. To have them retire my number is a real blessing and honor. I never thought something like that could happen.”

Brown’s words are steeped both in humility and honesty. He admits to reaching points of discouragement during his high school career as he saw former teammates transfer and reclassify to better their chances at landing a Division I scholarship. Just about every summer, Brown seriously toyed with the notion of taking the same path, only to fall back on his deep sense of loyalty and the encouraging words of his parents and Coach Simmons.

“He is the foundation,” Simmons said in a school press release on Brown’s jersey retirement. “When he decided to come back, that was probably the biggest thing for Christ Chapel’s basketball program ever.”

“After I balanced my options, I realize that staying at Christ Chapel was not only the best thing for me athletically but more so academically,” Brown said. “It was just a matter of trusting the process and following the wisdom of God and my parents and coaches. I remember one coach told me, ‘If you’re good enough, college coaches will come find you.’ And he was right.”

That coach was Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen, who extended an offer following another standout performance by Brown at one of the team’s camps last summer. Brown soon committed and turned his focus to achieving the last goal in his high school career — a state title.

The Lions would fall one game short, losing 68-62 to Millwood despite 19 points from Brown. The sting of defeat lingered over Brown for some time, but he has since turned it into motivation, not only for him at the next level but for the group of players who will look to follow in his footsteps on the Lions basketball team.

“After we gave him the jersey, he asked to say a few words and this shows a little about his character because none of it had to do with himself other than that he felt he didn’t get it done winning a state championship,” Green said. “But he used it as a charge to his teammates to make the next step. He made it about his team and those guys taking the next step in his absence. That just shows his humility and why he’s the most decorated student-athlete to ever come through these hallways.”

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.



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