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Why Kalani Brown Is The Center Of Attention In Recruiting Circles

Kalani Brown, daughter of former NBA star P.J. Brown, is the most sought-after center in the nation. She's planning to announce her decision Nov. 14. Eric Lars Bakke/ESPN Images

Among the most memorable experiences Kalani Brown had during her recruiting process were a pumpkin carving at Baylor, a communications class at Texas A&M and a photo shoot of sorts at Tennessee.

Brown had never done the pumpkin thing before, but working with three Baylor players, she managed to carve the school's "BU" initials, as per Bears tradition.

"It was a little gross," Brown said of the process of hollowing out her pumpkin, "but I liked it."

Brown said the class she sat in on at Texas A&M was a course she could see herself taking if she chooses the Aggies.

"I took notes on an iPad, and I did well," Brown said. "I think I would fit in really well in that class."

The photo shoot took place inside the Tennessee locker room, where Brown and other recruits tried on Volunteers jerseys, shorts and shoes while a staffer took pictures.

"We were just joking around. It was not like a serious photo shoot," Brown said. "We were cracking jokes and making funny faces."

For Brown, those are all fun memories. Now comes the hard part: It's time to pick a school.

Brown, a 6-foot-5 senior at Salmen (Slidell, La.), is the No. 11 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100, the top-ranked center and the top-ranked undeclared American heading into next week's NCAA early signing period.

The undeclared part is set to change on Nov. 14, when Brown -- surrounded by family -- is going to commit to Baylor, Texas A&M or Tennessee.

"It's been very hard," Brown said, "because all three are very good schools academically and are national-championship contenders."

Brown is the daughter of P.J. and Dee Brown. P.J. Brown was a 6-11 forward for five NBA franchises in a 15-year career. He won the 2008 NBA title with the Boston Celtics over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Dee Brown was a 6-3 post player at Salmen High who went on to play at Louisiana Tech, where she met her husband. She serves as an assistant coach for Kalani's high school team.

P.J. and Dee have been there to support Kalani, and they will help her as needed as she sorts through her college choices.

"The decision is all mine," Kalani Brown said. "But if I need input, they both know the recruiting process and can guide me."

As good as P.J. and Dee were in their day, Kalani Brown is actually the first one in her family to win a state title. She accomplished the feat in each of the past two seasons.

Brown, who also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico, has earned virtually every award in her state, including Gatorade Player of the Year, Louisiana Miss Basketball and Louisiana Hall of Fame Athlete of the Year.

Last season, Brown, a left-hander who overpowers her opponent in the paint, averaged 21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 steals per game.

"She was bombarded with recruiting letters and phone calls early in her career," said Kevin Anderson, her coach at Salmen. "But once she narrowed it down, it's been relatively calm.

"This is really big for the schools involved. Everyone wants a center with good footwork and great hands who can score in the post and play top defense."

Her talents certainly are not lost on Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, Tennessee coach Holly Warlick and Texas A&M coach Gary Blair.

"Whatever choice she makes will be a good one because those are three quality coaches and schools and three top-10 basketball programs," Anderson said. "She's been pretty quiet about it, and I have no idea which school she will choose."

Brown insists she has no idea yet where she will end up, but she said her parents want her to arrive at a decision at some point before Nov. 14.

For anyone seeking hints, Brown has a pretty good poker face. But there are a few clues strewn about the recruiting trail.

Baylor would seem to have an advantage in that, like Brown's parents, Mulkey is a Louisiana Tech graduate and she has known the Browns for years. In addition, Mulkey's intense coaching style is similar to what Brown has experienced with her mother.

"She knows me a lot," Brown said of Mulkey, who has led Baylor to the only two national titles in program history, in 2005 and 2012. "She's tough on her players, but she shows them love. She sticks up for her players. If you have seen any of Baylor's games, if there's a bad call ... she's very competitive."

Brown said she grew up watching Baylor basketball, especially in the Brittney Griner era.

"I like that [Griner is] a true [center] like I am, and [Baylor] ran their offense through her," Brown said.

Among the three schools that Brown is considering, Baylor appears to have the most center depth.

Brown said she is somewhat looking at the depth chart at each school but added, "I'm not selfish. I want to fit in, get stronger. All three schools have post players who have more experience than I do. I'm not expecting to start. Most freshmen don't start."

As for the storied Tennessee program, the Lady Vols led the nation in attendance last season with 11,038 fans per game, a fact Brown loves.

"It would be unbelievable to play in front of that crowd," Brown said. "It's a big plus for Tennessee."

Brown said Warlick is in the middle ground between the ultra-intense Mulkey and the easygoing Blair.

"[Warlick] is understanding of her players," Brown said. "She's also vibrant and very involved."

Blair, who led Texas A&M to the only national title in program history in 2011, is the most "laid-back" coach of the three, Brown said.

"He's more of a grandfather-type coach," Brown said of the 69-year-old Blair. "He goes with the flow."

Brown said she had no preference between being coached by a man or a woman. She also said she could adjust to any style.

Texas A&M has three centers on its roster, including 6-7 junior Rachel Mitchell.

"Rachel took me under her wing," Brown said of her visit to campus. "If I come there, I think she would do the same thing."

So after all that, which school will it be?

Dee Brown, who has made recruiting posters full of photos to help her daughter analyze her choices, has urged her to focus on the big picture.

"As parents and former athletes, P.J. and I have told Kalani that she needs to not only look at the basketball side of things but also the intangibles," Dee Brown said. "The school she chooses is where she will live the next four years of her life.

"The coaches and teammates will become her family. We told her to focus on what sets these schools apart from basketball and all the bells and whistles."