CHICAGO — Kalani Brown may be early in her basketball career, but she’s already chalking up something her dad and mom didn’t accomplish: playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
The senior at Salmen High School in Slidell will represent the West team in Wednesday night’s game, which will be televised on ESPNU at 5:30 p.m.
Kalani’s dad, P.J., played 15 years in the NBA and mom, Dee, played at Louisiana Tech. Kalani Brown, who is the No. 11-rated player in ESPN’s HoopGurlz rankings, was one of 24 girls selected to partake in the annual game.
“I’m very excited and very blessed,” Brown said during media day Tuesday. “It’s just an honor to be here. It’s great to be selected.”
Brown’s parents have been in Chicago all week for the festivities surrounding the All-American game.
“It takes a lot for me to get my juices flowing, but this is really special,” said P.J. Brown, who had a stint with the New Orleans Hornets from 2002-06. “It’s great to see your child be a part of something like this. Not only for her, but all the kids. I know some of the kids from the USA team and I think it’s a great moment for all of them.”
Kalani Brown, who is coming off a stellar senior season in which she averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks per game, has been enjoying the McDonald’s All-American activities.
“It’s been nice. Getting along with the girls, both East and West, and just practicing together and playing together,” said Brown, a finalist for the McDonald’s National Player of the Year. “It’s like a big AAU tournament, but we all play together.”
P.J. Brown has watched his daughter’s team during a few practices and a scrimmage and has been impressed with the chemistry of the players.
“They’ve only been here for a couple days and it seems like these girls have been with each other for years, like they’ve been high school teammates,” he said. “They’ve really been having fun and enjoying the moment.”
Kalani Brown will be one of the main post players for the West squad. At 6-foot-5, she’s the tallest player on either roster. She’s also teamed with the top-rated player in the country, guard Katie Lou Samuelson from Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California).
“I’m just hoping to show the world what I can do, post-wise, and show them my skills,” Brown said. “I want to share the ball with my teammates. That’s important because you can’t win without teamwork, and I think my team has really got that down pat.”
Playing in the McDonald’s All-Star Game is just another way to allow Kalani Brown to be her own player and ease comparisons to her dad.
“At the end of the day, I make my own path,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter what he’s done. What he’s done, he’s done. We’re not linked. I’m on my own path and I want to make my own future not being known as P.J. Brown’s daughter. I’ll always be P.J. Brown’s daughter, but I want to be Kalani Brown and make a name for myself.”
“There are always going to be comparisons to me and her mom, but she went out there and created her own identity,” P.J. Brown said. “I told her that as long as she tried hard and did her best, that would happen. She’s in the process of doing that. This is only another chapter, and she’s moving on to Baylor and that will be another step in her journey.”