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BOWLING GREEN - Darnell "Dee" Brown has lived in three places the last four years, including his current home as a freshman basketball player at Bowling Green State University.
Among the other spots Brown hung his hat was the house of NBA hall of famer and current Detroit Pistons executive Joe Dumars.
Brown, a Detroit native and back-up Falcons guard, became best friends with Dumars' son Jordan while a sophomore at Detroit Country Day High School. Brown's mother, Michele Little, was raising two children and working two jobs, and had to drop Brown off early at school to make it to work on time.
Tired of waking up before 6:30 a.m. and arriving at school sometimes an hour early, Brown started spending nights at the Dumars' house and hoped to make the arrangement permanent. With
Little's permission and through Joe Dumars' generosity, Brown was able to spend his sophomore and junior years at Country Day living with his closest friend, working out under the direction of an NBA great and getting to know Pistons players and coaches.
"I learned so much from him, so much that I couldn't even say it all," Brown said. "I'm just grateful he was willing to teach me."
Little, who stills works at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich., and was also working as a cosmetologist back then, said allowing her son to leave home and live with the Dumars was "a very tough thing to do."
But she also said Brown often visited on the weekends, the two families shared some holidays together and her son grew as a person through the experience.
"They are beautiful people," Little said of the Dumars. "They make you feel so welcome. It was an amazing experience for my son. A lot of the things I was trying to teach, they told him about, that in real life you need to work hard and focus."
Joe Dumars, who spoke with The Blade through e-mails regarding Brown, said: "Darnell was great the entire time he lived with us. He was always respectful and abided by the rules of the house."
Brown said he is very close with Joe Dumars, who said he looked at Brown as another son. There were even a few times when Dumars had to discipline Brown.
"Darnell and Jordan were typical teenage boys and did little things, but never anything serious," Dumars said. "But they still had to face the music whenever they stepped out of line."
Brown said he looked at
Dumars "like Jordan's dad instead of a hall of famer," but at the same time recognized he had secured almost unlimited access to basketball royalty.
Brown said he and Jordan worked out often together with the elder Dumars watching. When they weren't working out or in school, they hung around the Pistons and attended their games and practices.
Brown moved back with his mother for his senior year and is averaging 2.2 points per game in a limited role with BG. Jordan
Dumars is a senior at Country Day.
The Falcons, who host Kent State in an important game tonight, see Brown as a key part of their future. Joe Dumars has been counseling Brown while he awaits his turn.
"He gives me words of encouragement that things are going to be OK," Brown said.
"The first thing I tell Darnell is that he's playing for a good man in [BG coach] Louis Orr," Dumars said. "The second thing I tell him is to carry himself in a classy and respectful manner at all times. And I always tell him to work hard and be patient, his time will come."
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