Ben Malakoff, Contributing Writer
Mikeal Brown-Jones was not intimidated before his first workout at VCU. The freshman forward from Philadelphia was just anxious and eager to begin his first day as a Division I college basketball player.
After the first summer workout ended, those emotions changed. Brown-Jones said he started to understand what he was going to be a part of for the next years to come.
“I felt like I was here,” Brown-Jones said. “I was tired. I was exhausted. … I felt as though with time I could always call this place home.”
Before VCU, Brown-Jones played at IMG Academy, a high school in Bradenton, Florida, known for its nationally ranked sports programs. In the 2018-19 season, Brown-Jones helped lead his team to a 31-1 season averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. Brown-Jones said the school helped prepare him for expectations at the next level.
“I wouldn’t even call it an adjustment — it’s more so an adaption,” Brown-Jones said. “Obviously in basketball, a lot of the principals carry over.”
Brown-Jones originally committed to Penn State but decided to reopen his commitment in April. In September, he decided on VCU and coach Mike Rhoades after two Richmond visits. But Brown-Jones said it only took one visit for him to realize where he wanted to play.
“I left my unofficial with the idea that I need to be here,” Brown-Jones said of his first visit to VCU. “After my official visit, that was just icing on the cake.”
Rhoades said he was excited to see that recruitment efforts paid off when Brown-Jones made his decision to become “part of the VCU family.”
“I love what Mikeal brings to the court every day. He’s a versatile forward with a toughness we really need,” Rhoades said in a statement. “I’m eager to see him work with his teammates in the future.”
Standing at 6 feet, 8-inches tall, there are only four other players on the roster who are just as tall or taller than Brown-Jones, none of which are freshmen. Those guys have provided advice for Brown-Jones on and off the court. Redshirt-senior forward Corey Douglas motivated him to take extra steps in practice.
“He’s been the one who has been on me to become a better leader, a better player, a better person, student,” Brown-Jones said. “Even on my visits, he’s always been that person to be around and to learn as much as possible.”
Brown-Jones, one of four freshmen on the roster, left the first workout no longer feeling anxious. He knew he found a home for the next four years.
Early in the offseason surrounded by many experienced players, Brown-Jones made his role obvious. He was going to work hard to prove he belonged.
“The role I plan: play extremely hard for as long as I possibly can,” Brown-Jones said. “Bring unbelievable enthusiasm, bring toughness, unbelievable charisma just so we can play and be at our highest level.”