After his sophomore season at Workman High in Industry, when he averaged 19.6 points and made the All-Valle Vista League team, Eric Brown was advised by basketball Coach Rick Cook to consider transferring to another school.
It wasn't that the coach actually wanted Brown to leave. With an acute shortage of size and talent in his program, Cook simply felt that it might be in Brown's best interest to go elsewhere.
"I'm from back East, and I had seen and coached good athletes before and knew that you needed to play against good talent to improve," Cook said. "The thing I was concerned about was the caliber of the players here and the time I would have to work with him."
In retrospect, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound swingman is happy he decided to stay at Workman.
"He's a really good coach and I don't think it would've been right for me to leave," Brown said. "If I felt I could've gone somewhere else and done as well I would've gone. But everything has worked out for me here."
Brown, an 18-year-old senior, is the school's all-time leading scorer. He averages 31.4 points and 15.5 rebounds to rank among the leaders in the San Gabriel Valley in both categories this season.
Brown, who will attended Cal State Long Beach in the fall on an athletic scholarship, is leading Workman to its most successful season in years.
The Lobos have a 12-8 record. They tied Northview for the league title and play host to St. Paul in the first round of the Southern Section III-A Division playoffs Friday night.
Brown's success this season may be partly a result of hard work during the summer.
"I worked on my shooting and dribbling and it really helped," he said. "I spent most of my time over the summer with the coach and it just gives you the knowledge that you can play at (a high) level and be the best that you can."
Cook also tried to motivate Brown before the season started.
"I had talked to Eric and we set a goal for him to be Player of the Year in our league and maybe even Player of the Year in the valley, and right now there's no one in our league even near him in ability," he said.
Cook says that Brown has the natural ability to excel at basketball.
"He has the two things you need to be a good player: the size and the shooting ability," he said. "With those two things you can go a long way, and he has both of those things."
Despite his size and the fact that he is the only player in the Lobos' lineup taller than 6-0, Cook is hesitant to limit Brown to playing inside. In fact, Brown is an excellent three-point shooter, having made 43% of his three-point attempts this season.
"I'm not a coach who likes to put positions on players," Cook said. "He can play inside and outside and moves all over the place.
"I think one of the big injustices you could do for a player like Eric is to stick him inside and play him there just because he is your tallest player. He's a college prospect and we like to use him wherever we can."
The coach said Brown might be having an even better season if he didn't have to face double-teams and special defenses.
"I think he could be averaging 45 a game if he didn't have to face as good defenses as he has, but he has that in him," Cook said.
Cook is impressed by Brown's development as a player.
"I've seen a lot of improvement in his overall game," Cook said. "What he's missing is mostly technical things. It's the things you pick up from working out and playing a lot and getting the coaching."
Brown said: "I've (improved) from watching tapes of Michael Jordan over and over again and just from playing a lot of basketball. I guess it's also just from my instincts, and when I don't know something the coach is always there to help me realize what I'm doing wrong."
But Cook said Brown's growth away from the court has left the biggest impression.
"I think the three most important things in a player are what kind of a person he is, what kind of a student he is and what kind of a player he is," Cook said. "I think one of the big things about Eric is he has grown as a person and as a student over the last three years. That's more important to me than how he's grown as a player, and I know that's important to his mom."
In the classroom, Brown was encouraged by the fact that he had a 3.0 grade-point average for the last grading period--the first time he has accomplished the feat in high school.
"It's been much better for me this year because I used to always worry if I was going to be eligible," Brown said. "But now I'm not worried about making the grades. I know I can do it."
Cook said Brown's growth as a person and student has helped him on the court.
"He's really grown in his emotional control on the court since I've been here," Cook said. "To face the teams and the defenses he has faced, the most important factor for him has been his emotional control. There's no way he could do the things that he's been doing if he didn't have the emotional control and maturity."