'The kid can play': This Limestone sophomore has arrived on the Peoria-area hoops scene

Adam Duvall
Journal Star
Limestone sophomore De'Kwon Brown, a Peoria High transfer, moves the ball against Dunlap on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 at Dunlap High School.

DUNLAP — De’Kwon Brown is an emerging star.

The Limestone point guard is just a sophomore, but he has shown veteran flashes with smooth ballhandling skills and slick moves to the basket. The 6-foot-3 Peoria High transfer is lethal from 3-point land, knocking down four treys for a game-high 24 points with eight rebounds in Thursday’s 66-59 loss to Mid-Illini Conference host Dunlap.

“He’s got a great feel for the game,” Limestone coach Tony Thomason said of Brown, who is averaging 17 points and four rebounds, while shooting 40% from 3. “He’s gotten better all year. Just knowing really, the IQ and the ins and outs of the game, he’s come a long way.”

Brown joined the Rockets following a breakout year at Peoria High. He showed his chops with 15 points in his varsity debut against Peoria Notre Dame last season.

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When he arrived this past summer for Limestone open gyms, everyone began to take notice. Northern Illinois made a visit to Vern Woosley Gymnasium in Bartonville to see Brown. The University of Illinois has also been in touch.

“We called him over the summer just a ‘gamer,' ” Thomason said. “The kid can play.”

Much like former Manual and Chicago Morgan Park all-stater Adam Miller, Brown took his game to the Windy City in September, joining the storied AAU program Mac Irvin Fire. There he quickly realized that he was a small fish in a big pond.

“I’m not the best player on that team and that says a lot,” Brown said. “Playing with a lot of five-star (recruits) and other great players in Chicago is just real hard.”

Following a co-MVP performance at the Pangos Camp in October, Brown was ready for his second season of high school hoops.

COVID-19, though, had other ideas. Due to close contacts from his COVID positive Limestone classmates, Brown was only allowed to attend school, not any extracurriculars for the first four weeks of the season.

“It was very difficult,” Brown said, “watching my team go out there, needing me out there as a point guard, running the team and running the play. (I was) just ready to go out there and play with them.”

Brown returned to practice on Nov. 30 with a home game looming with Washington four days later. Brown showcased his talents after some "hard, college-like" practices.

He dropped 24 points, and the Rockets pulled out a 60-53 win.

“Just the atmosphere of playing with those guys,” he said of what it felt like to be playing again. “It really builds me up. I got teammates who can pick me up when I fall and just give me that energy. I really just feed off them.”

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Limestone's De'Kwon Brown (10) puts up a shot last season for Peoria High. The sophomore point guard has blossomed into a college prospect in his first season with the Rockets.

As much praise as Thomason gives Brown, he says his point guard still has a lot to learn. This includes everything from playing weak-side defense to knowing how to screen to knowing how to read screens.

Plus, the little things that don’t show up in the box score or in the highlights.

“That’s what he’s trying to learn here,” Thomason said. “It’s everything when the ball’s not in his hands — offensively and defensively. When the ball is in his hands, he’s a threat. He can score at all three levels. Half the shots he makes is just off confidence. That’s not an issue.”

A 29-point performance — hitting 7-of-12 3-pointers — against Canton is a prime example of Brown’s raw scoring ability. As the season progressed, Brown says he is focused on getting more 50/50 balls, taking charges and most importantly, running the offense.

He’s also opted to finding his teammates on the perimeter more often as opposed to forcing it in the paint with four guys collapsing on him. His assists have gone up while his turnovers have gone down.

“(I’m) learning my position,” Brown said. “Taking more effort into that.”

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Limestone (5-14, 3-4) is an inexperienced team, starting Brown and classmate Jacob Borrowman along with juniors Cooper Waibel and Clayton Bell as well as the lone senior Frank Driscoll. In fact, seven players scored their first varsity points in the season opener against Moline.

Learning to play together and each other’s strengths and weaknesses is still a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean the Rockets aren’t creating a roadmap for the future.

“We’re building towards winning conference,” Brown said, “and winning beyond that.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.