Commentary

Flashback: Elton Brand

Updated: October 28, 2008, 4:53 PM ET
By Jay Corbin | ESPNRISE.com

Good things happen when Elton Brand is on the court. After averaging 25.9 points and 16.2 rebounds per game as a senior to lead Peekskill (N.Y.) to its second straight state title, Brand went on to help coach Mike Krzyzewski's Duke squad advance to the 1999 NCAA title game and become the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft.

[+] EnlargeElton Brand
David Dow/NBAE/Getty ImagesElton Brand was motivated by his lack of exposure.

Now recovered from an injured Achilles tendon that kept him out of all but eight games last season, Brand will bring his good vibes to the Philadelphia 76ers, where the two-time All-Star signed this offseason after spending seven years with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 6-foot-8 power forward is expected to take his place alongside Charles Barkley and Dr. J in Sixers lore, but he still remembers a time when he was just trying to get noticed.

RISE: Coming from a small town, did you feel you had to play extra hard to get recognized?
Brand: Without a doubt. When I was in high school, all the New York City kids got the press, and I used that as motivation. That's why I made the most out of AAU ball. I really enjoyed AAU. It definitely exposed me to some great coaches, such as Coach K. Because of AAU basketball, I had the opportunity to play with and against some of the best athletes in the country.

RISE: How did a New Yorker like yourself end up at Duke?
Brand: I didn't want to stay home -- I wanted to get away from the area. I picked Duke for academics as well as basketball. I knew with a degree from Duke I could get my mom a house if basketball didn't pan out.

RISE: What do you miss most about high school?
Brand: I miss the camaraderie, winning the championship and the guys working hard at every game. In Peekskill, I was in a small league at the time, but it was still very fun and was a great experience.

RISE: How has your game changed from high school to today?
Brand: In high school, I was able to use power and size because I was one of the bigger players on the court. When you go to the pros and play power forward at 6-8, you are rarely the biggest player on the floor, so I've had to develop a finesse game as well as a mid-range jumper.

RISE: Do you think other players should follow Brandon Jennings' lead and go pro overseas rather than play college ball?
Brand: To me, that is not a good move. You have to understand that you are playing with guys that have been professional since 16-17 years of age, and they aren't going to allow you to make a name off of them.

RISE: What would you tell high school ballers hoping to make it to the NBA?
Brand: My advice to any high school student is to try to go to college and study economics and learn about money. Every kid should have some sense of the real world and an understanding of money in order to be successful and have a meaningful career in the NBA.

Jay Corbin is the Sneaker Sensei and ESPN RISE Magazine's lifestyle editor.