O’Brien: Simeon’s Kezo Brown hospitalized, may miss senior season

Simeon's Kezo Brown (2) reacts after taking down Morgan Park in the CPS City Championship game at Chicago State Sunday 02-19-17. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The twisting saga of Kezo Brown’s high school career has taken another dramatic turn. The Simeon senior is currently in a psychiatric hospital and it is possible he will miss the upcoming season.

“I don’t know if he will come back and play this year,” Kezo’s dad, Marquis Brown Sr. said. “This is heartbreaking. I don’t want my son to have to go through this. I don’t want to lose my son. It’s rough here in Chicago.”

Brown was the freshman phenom from the state’s class of 2018. The only freshman in Simeon history to receive more playing time than Brown was Jabari Parker. He participated in the USA U16 national team training camp and clearly seemed destined to become the city’s next star basketball attraction.

The first turn arrived sophomore year, it was a disaster. Brown stopped playing basketball due to an undisclosed health issue. His junior season was triumphant. Brown returned and was excellent, he scored 26 points for the Wolverines in the city title title game.

“What he did last year was incredible, after missing his sophomore year,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “The performance he put on in the city championship, we hadn’t seen one of those in a long time.”

Brown wasn’t quite himself during Simeon’s run to the Class 4A state championship game. Smith says the team knew something was wrong. Brown is an excellent defender and he was forgetting his assignment at crucial times.

Then Brown injured his ankle in May. Instead of playing on the summer basketball circuit he had to sit and watch his peers pass him by in the national rankings.”

“He watched [Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu] and [Simeon teammate Talen Horton-Tucker] get all those accolades and he knows he should be right there with those guys,” Brown Sr. said. “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Brown recently started telling people he was finished playing basketball and began posting disturbing gang-related images on his social media accounts.

“Kezo is not in a gang, but he is going through a situation where he is hollering out for help,” Brown Sr. said. “He’s not in a gang, but in his mind I think he thinks he is. He hardly even goes outside, we don’t let him out.”

Brown Sr. said his son’s challenges first cropped up sophomore year.

“He was diagnosed with a mental health problem,” Brown Sr. said. “That’s why he missed his whole sophomore year. We tried to keep it quiet for awhile, but so many people are saying so many different things. He isn’t in a gang, he doesn’t hang out like that.”

Brown is a good student, a kid that actually likes going to school.

“He doesn’t miss school when he’s healthy,” Smith, who is also a dean at Simeon, said. “He comes every day and is doing well in his classes. He just has flashes here and there, he was fine almost all of last year.”

Smith has seen the massive pressure that is heaped on young basketball stars.

“It’s so much,” Smith said. “I remember talking to Derrick [Rose] and telling him that I didn’t know how he handled it all. I don’t think I could have. It’s your family and school and neighborhood pushing on you to make it and help them, it becomes a lot. They don’t get to be kids anymore.”

Brown has felt that pressure. A local rapper, Yung Curt, even named a song “Kezo Brown.”

Brown is a charming kid, well-liked all over the city. Orr’s Chase Adams started a twitter hashtag #kezobrownchallenge to try and cheer up his friend.

“Kezo and I have been friends since fourth grade, it’s more than basketball,” Dosunmu said. “That’s my brother, we compete but it’s nothing but love. He will overcome this, I’m praying for him and the family.”

Brown has orally committed to Chicago State, but his dad doesn’t know where that currently stands. The early signing period begins next month.

“As of right now I’m hoping he signs, but I really don’t know,” Brown Sr. said. “We have to find out if Chicago State still wants him. They seem like they’ve had his back. Even when he said he wanted to sit out senior year.”

Brown Sr. thinks the gang association comes from some family members.

“He listens to that Lil JoJo [a Chicago rapper killed in 2012],” Brown Sr. said. “JoJo was close with his mother’s family. By him hanging out with his cousins, who are a part of a gang, he locked onto that in his head. At one point Kezo thought he was on top of the world. He’s not as big as he was, so he was looking for something.”

Kansas and Duke were both recruiting Brown during his freshman year. The blue blood schools moved on after his issues sophomore year, but Brown Sr. doesn’t mind. He’s just hoping his son returns to basketball and takes advantage of his opportunity at Chicago State.

“I talked to [Duke assistant coach] Jon Scheyer plenty of times,” Brown said. “But I’m thrilled with the situation at Chicago State. It’s a great situation for him.”

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23 comments

  • Tyrone Bullock

    Get betta young fella, you have a lot of people rooting for you. Pray, pray, pray and then pray some more. #KEZOBROWNJR!!🏀🏀

  • Kontiki Jackson

    Mr. Kezo Brown I talked to your mother and the streets and understand how you and your father are seeing things as they are, but I want to hear your side of the story young brother! -TikiDaBarber(aka Dr.Conteakey)

  • Kontiki Jackson

    I’ve always asked you to Talk to me Mr. Kezo Brown and my doors is always open all you have to do is ASK FOR IT and you got it, I’ll give you what you are looking for as a reflection. -Dr.Conteakey

  • Lennette Coleman

    Kezo Brown is an incredible young man and an athlete. Kezo persevered and fought back in his sophmore year and that is a testament to his inner strength, discipline and drive. Most adults would have given up and thrown the towel. We should rally around our youth when they have challenges and not exploit their struggles or entertain ourselves with their misery. Kezo we are here for you whether you play or not, fight back, be strong dont lose faith in yourself. I will always stand by you. Love you. Dr. C

  • Pfaye

    Kezo,
    Prayer changes things. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20
    I will be praying for you and your family.

  • Tim from Evanston

    Praying for your recovery Kezo.

  • cclalumni89

    So joining a gang is consider mental health know such a joke just because he can put a ball in a hoop get real

  • Andrew Campbell

    Great article about Chamique Holdsclaw on espn.com about dealing with mental illness. Sounds similar. Hope all becomes well!

  • GW

    My son, who attended private school, BTW, deals with serious, sometimes debilitating mental health issues. What this young man needs is love and support from his family and friends, and for all of us to raise awareness so that he receives the treatment he needs, so that he can live a full life. He does not need someone or something to blame.

  • DrMal

    How can this idiot “Reality Check” say it’s CPS; private schools don’t even offer that level of support they send their students and there IEP’s to CPS for those students to get services. Perhaps he will have an opportunity at a prep school that can offer the environment for him to be successful.

    • RealityCheck

      Identifying with a gang is a mental illness now? Please.

      • Kyra Carter

        Not always, but in this case, yes it is. I’m a mental heath professional and engaging in risky behavior is one of the top symptoms for teenagers with mental health issues. You seem to have already decided not to empathize with this young man and his family. If you take the time to just visit his Twitter page you can see something happened in September and there’s a drastic change in the content and tone of his posts. He needs our prayers, help and support, not judgment and condemnation. Kezo is still a child who has an issue he didn’t ask for. A little compassion or good old silence is the only thing that needs to be offered in theas comments.

  • DP

    I do know you personally but I do have a grandson who plays basketball. I am praying for you.

  • Coach B

    We’re still behind you young fella. Always will be. ~ The Hales Family

  • Tony Lowery

    Kezo Brown is a true champion who will beat the odds I talked to him when he came to the house for my son’s (Madison Lowery) trunk party before he left for college. I’ve known him since the 5th grade and he needs all of the support that we can give him, so that he knows that he is surrounded by people who care about him.

  • Tiffany Thigpen

    We love you Kezo!!! You got this! Praying for you daily and praying for your family as well. Love, your basketball family!!

  • Black

    Mental health is such an important health issues that doesnt get the attention it needs. The most important concern is Kezo and his family getting the help and support needed, to get through this. Its tough for anyone to have to watch a loved one struggle with mental health problems. We are all wishing you nothing but the best.

  • mikenike

    Hoping for the best for Kezo and his family. Get better, Kezo.

  • RealityCheck

    And CPS claims another victim. Dad should have sent him to private school.

  • Steve A

    Kezo–I don’t know you or your family, but just know that there is an Illini in Virginia who is rooting for you. Get right and I look forward to seeing you playing for Chicago State. Best of luck!!

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