YOUNGSTOWN — Will Brown has found a home with the Chaney High School boys basketball team.
In the fall of 2018, athletics returned to Chaney after a seven-year absence. For football, a junior varsity team was created, with a varsity squad to follow a year later. That made basketball the Cowboys’ first varsity sport to return.
Marlon McGaughy, once the Kennedy Catholic varsity coach over Hermitage, Pa., brought the Chaney program back to life.
Two weeks before the first season began, Brown — then a junior — arrived after relocating from Atlanta. He quickly made his presence felt on the surprisingly successful team.
The 6-foot-5 guard who was born in Ohio but moved to Georgia before he was school-age admits he wasn’t sure what to expect when he returned to the Buckeye State. His family had visited Ohio during school vacations, “but I didn’t know anybody. I knew [Chaney] didn’t have a basketball team [in 2017-18],” Brown said. “I wanted to come in with some energy, something different … a different style of the game.”
Late in his sophomore year, Brown knew his dad, William, was moving back to Ohio. Both parents — Nichelle Stewart is his mother —grew up in Ohio.
Brown said choosing to move north “was a very hard decision to make, leaving all my friends.”
But it was his choice and he spent that summer “getting myself ready for my junior year, working out,” Brown said.
He arrived in Youngstown to find a youthful team featuring three sophomores — Quincy Jones, Cameron Lawrence and Sharrod Taylor — who were set to become starters. Brown blended in with them to create the Mahoning Valley’s most pleasant athletic surprise last winter.
“We exceeded expectations because no one, including myself, thought we would be that good,” McGaughy said. “First-year team — we had guys who had to gel together, so we more than exceeded expectations.”
The Cowboys went 20-6, advancing all the way to the Division II district final game at Boardman High School. Chaney forced Poland into overtime before losing, 66-59. McGaughy was named the Northeast Inland District’s Coach of the Year. He says Brown, a Division I prospect, is “a kid who can do everything. He can play the big, he can play the small.
“When he goes to college, he can probably play point guard at 6-5,” McGaughy said. “He can dribble, he can rebound — he can do everything for us.”
For Brown, his biggest challenge wasn’t on the court.
“The hard adjustment mainly was just adapting to a new environment,” Brown said. “In Atlanta, I was used to everyone knowing me. I didn’t have to prove myself.
“But when I first came to Chaney, they made me feel at home, and that made it a lot easier transition.”
It also helped that his teammates were learning to play together as well.
“Everybody was brand new [to each other]. Nobody really had played together,” Brown said.
What helped, Brown explained, is that McGaughy let them play more in practice than teams usually do.
“We started to gel,” Brown said of that decision.
Brown was a starter in the Cowboys’ first game, an 83-57 win over Austintown-Fitch.
Admitting the season went better than many expected, Brown was not totally satisfied.
“I never want to short myself,” he said. “No losses was the goal. I’ve never been one to settle for less. I’ve always wanted to be the best.”
Brown agrees that there is some satisfaction to be acknowledged when a basketball program is revived and loses only six times.
“I was satisfied that in my first year, I was able to come into the program and help in various ways,” he said.
Brown’s goal is to major in sports therapy.
“That way I’d still be in sports,” he said.
His favorite subject is social studies.
“Learning about what used to go on back in the day — history,” said Brown of why it’s his favorite.
This winter, the Cowboys have continued to succeed with their four returning starters and 11 players back overall. With a 9-3 record, Chaney is the best team in the city. The Cowboys’ 4-0 record leads the Steel Valley Conference heading into tonight’s game at East High School. The game will be televised live on MyYTV and replayed several times over the weekend. Last year, the Cowboys did so well that their game against McDonald was added to the MyYTV lineup.
Brown admits he’ll be watching one of the replays.
“Oh yeah, we do,” the senior said of watching themselves on television. “Sometimes I watch it to see what I did wrong so I can correct [mistakes].”
His goals this winter are “to cut down on mistakes that I made last year and be a leader.”
His future is undetermined. Division I college teams including Youngstown State, Temple, Tennessee State and Northern Illinois have shown interest. He won’t make a decision until the season is over.
“Colleges are recruiting me for guard — shooting guard, point guard, small forward,” he said, adding that McGaughy allows him to play more than point guard.
“We’ve got so many players who are interchangeable,” McGaughy said. “When we roll out the big lineup, he can play the point.”
Brown welcomes the challenge of learning to play multiple positions.
“He wants me to know everything about basketball and be a five-star player, not somebody who only knows one thing,” said Brown of the extra responsibilities.
Competition and teamwork are what he loves about basketball.
“I love that I can play [well] and it can help everybody around me,” Brown said. “It’s not just benefiting me, it’s benefiting everyone that’s in my life.”