What if I’m not good enough? Should I just give up? Am I not special?
Most athletes frequently face questions like these. In addition to fending off physical setbacks and fighting through slumps and losing streaks, basketball players must overcome their own personal doubts every time they take the court. Telisha Brown faced these questions herself from the moment she first picked up a basketball.
Throughout her life, Brown has had to prevail over all sorts of doubt. Some of that doubt came from opponents and outsiders, but a lot of it came from Brown herself. Growing up in a rough neighborhood with a humbled demeanor, Brown rarely gave the idea of “being special” any thought. As she got older and began to take basketball more seriously, she started to realize just how fantastic she could be.
The term “special” can easily be misconstrued and misinterpreted. Some kids just hear their parents call them special at a young age and run with it. But Brown’s abilities do not need any inflation or exaggeration. Ever since she started taking on the local boys at her local basketball courts, Brown made her presence felt when she stepped on the concrete or the hardwood.
After a long journey that has led her through high school and an action-packed stint at Blinn College, Telisha Brown has made one thing clear to herself and to those around her: she always has been special, and she always will be special.
Photos by Joe Alberico
Finding A Love For Basketball
Brown grew up in the South Park area of Houston, Texas. No, Eric Cartman, does not also reside there. He and his fellow pals hail from South Park, Colorado.
While Telisha's father has always remained involved in her life, she lived with her mother in a single-parent household alongside two of her brothers and a sister.
Brown noted that where she grew up, she never “really [saw] anyone make it out." As a result, she remained relatively reserved and described herself as “humble." This mindset kept Brown in a box throughout her early years. Little Telisha never thought that she would be able to stand out and build upon her own narrative outside of her hometown.
Nevertheless, Brown had a drive that always pushed her forward. She credits this force within her to her mother. Telisha’s mother worked extremely long shifts at a McDonald’s in the local hospital. Her determination to put food on the table and support her children inspired Brown and her siblings to adopt a spirit of perseverance.
In order to help her children find new activities and possible passions, Brown’s mother enrolled them in the local Boys and Girls Club. Telisha spent plenty of time there throughout her childhood.
Eventually, she discovered an interest in basketball during her time in elementary school. Brown believes that her father played a key role in developing her passion for the sport.
“My daddy played [basketball], so I would say I got it from him,” Brown said. “For me to follow [my father’s] footsteps and take my game to the next level, I think he really enjoys watching me.”
Additionally, her younger brother plays college basketball for Prairie View A&M University. With all these past and present connections to the sport, only fate would have it that she would pick up a basketball as well.
Brown joined her first AAU team in third grade. However, she encountered plenty of early roadblocks as she embarked on her basketball journey. In the first few years of her career, she got scarce amounts of playing time due to her age, size and gender.
“I made the team, but I wasn’t playing because it was a lot of older kids. Also, I was playing with all guys. I was the only girl on the team,” Brown said. “All these guys on the team were better than me. They were playing, and I [wasn’t].”
Rather than shying away from this high-level competition, Brown embraced it. Over the next few years, she continued working her way up the rotation. Additionally, she got plenty of practice in playing street ball with some of the boys in her neighborhood. Brown believed that if she could handle them, she could handle any girls that she faced down the road.
Tapping Into Her Hidden Potential
As time passed, Brown began to catch the attention of those across her neighborhood. Despite her physical disadvantages, Brown held her own against the local boys that she frequently faced in street ball. One of her older brothers, Pooh Brown, saw the drive that Telisha played with from a young age.
When they were younger, Pooh had Telisha play football against her younger brothers. To his surprise, not only did Telisha keep up with them, she took her brothers to school. As Telisha eventually became more interested in basketball, Pooh took note of how her athletic abilities and her determination allowed her to stand out.
“I noticed… in her first year since playing [at] school, she was always more athletic than the other girls her age,” Pooh Brown said. “Her basketball skills and abilities were up to par with [those of] a boy.”
Brown found more success in her basketball pursuits as she grew older. However, she still struggled with accepting her “gift." No matter how good of a game she had, she always questioned if she was truly special. Nevertheless, by the time she had reached high school, she had already earned the respect of her peers and her opponents. Word had already gotten around about Brown and her standout skillsets.
“I never really thought ‘Wow, I could be this special,’” Brown said. “[But] the numbers I put up, and talking to coaches and to a lot of people, they were like ‘Wow Telisha, you’re very special. You could really take your game to the next level.’ But I never really believed that until I got to high school.”
Establishing Herself In High School
One particular moment during Brown's freshman year stood out as helping her recognize her self-worth. When she first joined the Wheatley High School team, she planned to take jersey number 3, since the player who had previously worn it had great success. Wheatley Head Coach Dedreck Carr had other plans. He gave Brown a different jersey number: 1. He wanted Brown to “start her own legacy."
And did she ever. She had multiple games scoring over 40 points and amazingly tallied 52 against Cypress Part. She hit a whopping six 3-pointers in a playoff victory over seemingly invincible Hardin-Jefferson.
In an astounding junior year campaign, Brown put up mind-boggling numbers. She averaged 35.4 points per game, 3.2 assists per game and 5.2 steals per game while shooting 59% from the field. Two games in a row she exceeded 50 points. She also broke the record for most 3-pointers in a game when she hit an unfathomable fourteen in a game against Scarborough.
She deservedly won multiple player of the week awards. And, most impressively, she received a McDonald's All American nomination.
Her senior year, at Legacy School of Sport Sciences, (yes, she literally became a "legacy") Brown faced tougher opponents. Rather than backing away from a potential challenge, Brown tackled her adversities head-on and rounded out her game in the process. She finished with 17.4 points per game, 7.0 assists per game and 6.1 steals per game. Brown also shot 52% throughout the year. That's special.
Growing Into A Superstar With The Buccaneers
Upon her arrival at Blinn College, Head Coach Jeff Jenkins immediately could tell that he had a sensational player on his hands. With her skillsets and ceiling, Jenkins had high hopes and even higher expectations for her right off the bat.
“Telisha has a very good basketball IQ. She has a game that looks like [it] developed on a concrete court playing with men, and not doing drills in front of cones,” Jenkins said. “She shoots the 3 at a high percentage, has good ball handling skills and has a really good assist to turnover ratio.”
Throughout her career with the Buccaneers, Brown frequently met with the coaches during office hours and through video sessions to improve upon her game. Still, she could not quite shake off her “fear of being special." Jenkins mentioned that while she served as one of the team’s leaders from the get-go, she did not play as aggressively as she could have in certain situations.
Both Brown and Jenkins recalled a game that served as a turning point in her rise to stardom. In a matchup with Paris Junior College, Brown passed up multiple open shots in the first half. During a break in the action, Coach Jenkins lit a fire under Brown, challenging her to step up her game.
“When we went back to the locker room, it was the first time Coach Jenkins chewed me out. He was like, ‘Hey Telisha, you’re afraid of being special! You’re going to be special, and everyone in this locker room knows that! You’re going to be an All-American, and don’t think you’re not! Stop playing like that,’” Brown said. “For him to really yell at me and chew me out in front of everybody, he must really believe that I could be special and be an All-American. From there, it just clicked. Maybe I can do this, maybe I could be special, maybe I could be an All-American.”
With Jenkins’ words resonating in the back of her head, Brown came out swinging the rest of her time with Blinn. During her tenure with the Buccaneers, they went 46-11. Brown made her impact felt on both ends of the court; in her sophomore year, she led the Buccaneers with 13.6 points per game and 4.6 assists per game. She also topped Region XIV of the NJCAA in steals per game (1.9) and three-point shooting percentage (42.2%).
Having Some Fun Along The Way
While Brown and her teammates always took care of business on the court, they made some strong bonds off the floor. If she ever found some free time, Brown would go play volleyball with her teammate Deja Adrian. Admittedly, Brown said that she was “not good at all." It still served as a fun pastime that allowed her to keep up with her teammates. That being said, she does not plan to become a volleyball two-sport athlete in the near future. Most likely for her own good.
Additionally, the Buccaneers showed off their quick feet in multiple ways last year; the team prioritized a fast-paced offense throughout the season, but they were also known to have some impromptu dance sessions before games. Brown herself noted how the team being able to have fun together helped them keep their spirits up.
“Our locker room was most definitely good before the games,” Brown said. “We had music, we had dancing and everything. The locker room was really great.”
At one point, Brown and her teammates insisted that Coach Jenkins dance along with them. Despite some initial resistance from her coach (and complaints that he was “too stiff”), Brown eventually got him to loosen up and bust a move or two. Moments like those stood out to Brown as some of her favorite memories as a Buccaneer.
Going Out With A Bang At Blinn
One of the highlights from Brown’s career with Blinn came near the end of the 2022 season. Following their strong regular season, Blinn won their first Regional Tournament championship since 2016. Although Brown had some shaky performances early on in the tournament, she managed to brush them off and immediately refocus herself on the task at hand.
“I had some bad games, some terrible games. People just told me to keep working and keep trying until I get there,” Brown said. “Sometimes after the game, the next day, I try to get in the gym and put in a lot of shots. I’ve had slumps in games too, where I’m like ‘Dang, I can’t make a shot.’ But my coaches… tell me, ‘Telisha, it’s okay. Your shot’s going to come. Just keep shooting. You’re a scorer.’”
Sure enough, Brown found her rhythm at the right time for the Buccaneers. She led her squad with 23 points, four assists and two steals in the Region XIV Tournament championship game. At the end of the season, Brown received an NJCAA Division 1 All-American second-team nod. To top off her phenomenal 2021-22 campaign, Blinn College awarded Brown with the team’s Don Wilhelm MVP Award.
Preparing For A Bright Future
Following two successful seasons with the Buccaneers, Brown recently committed to play with the Lamar University Cardinals next Fall. This will be Brown’s first opportunity to play NCAA Division 1 basketball. While she continues to make her mark on the basketball world, Brown has made her family back in South Park proud. In a community where very few people can make something of themselves, Telisha Brown has already become a household name.
Even after she finishes playing basketball, Brown still has plans to continue establishing a legacy for both herself and her family. As one of the first members of her family on track to graduate from college, she hopes to open up a clothing store one day down the road. She plans to specialize in selling (and possibly even designing) streetwear.
But for now, all eyes lie on her next two years with Lamar. Brown’s leadership capabilities and her star power on the court will certainly come in handy for a Cardinals team hoping to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.
Despite carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, Brown cannot wait to see what the future has in store. No matter what happens down the road, she knows at least one thing will always be true: Telisha Brown has been, and always will be, special.
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