Cal freshman Jaylen Brown, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, declares for the NBA Draft

After much speculation, California freshman Jaylen Brown of Marietta, Ga., announced on Thursday morning that he would declare for the NBA Draft.

One half of the California five-star freshman duo -- Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Jaylen Brown -- declared for the NBA Draft on Thursday morning at Haas Pavilion, in the Haas Club Room, with family and teammates on-hand, as well as Oakland Soldiers founder Hashim Alaudeen, in attendance.

"The journey here at Cal has been nothing short of great," Brown said. "I've grown so much since I've been here, however, I'm here to tell you that this year, I'm entering the 2016 Draft."

The other half of that pair -- Ivan Rabb -- stood at the back of the room, along with Jabari BirdBrandon ChaucaRoger Moute a BidiasKameron Rooks, head coach Cuonzo Martin and assistants Wyking Jones and Tracy Webster.

Asked about Rabb's fate, Brown laughed, "He's right there; you can ask him."

Rabb is still deciding, but sources have indicated he's leaning towards staying, if he hasn't already made the decision, privately. Rabb, with the deadline for underclassmen to declare set for Sunday, has not made an announcement.

Brown talked to Shareef Abdur-Rahim -- who was in attendance -- on Thursday morning about his decision, and picked his brain about what he was going through with this decision all those years ago. "He's like my big brother," Brown said.

“He’s a special kid, a really mature kid, and much further along than I was at this age – physically, mentally, emotionally – a lot of different ways," Abdur-Rahim said. He should be the poster boy for really coming to a University, engaging and getting to know people, and moving far beyond just the athletic part of it. The whole community – athletically, academically, socially – I think he’s really immersed himself, and he’ll stay connected in a really great way to the University.” Before the day's proceedings, Brown was handed 5x8 photos of Abdur-Rahim's own announcement, with him crying. He texted Abdur-Rahim to let him know he had them.

"Oh, someone should have burned those," Abdur-Rahim laughed. “I’ve got to grab him and figure out where he found them, because those pictures shouldn’t be floating around.”

Abdur-Rahim -- like Brown, a Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler alum -- wasn't instrumental in bringing Brown to Cal, but he did drop in when Brown made his secretive unofficial visit in March of 2015. Fittingly enough, he was there at the beginning, and now, he's here at the end.

"He asked me if it would be OK," Brown recalled. “It made me a little bit more comfortable. He went to Wheeler, and he went to Cal, and his little brother came on the trip with me, because that’s my best friend – Bilal. He’s the younger brother under Malik – they have, like, 20. You’ll get lost trying to keep up with all the brothers in the ‘Reef family, but the younger one, Bilal, is my age, and he goes to a prep school in Kansas. He came with me on my visit. He came with me, and Shareef came up there. He wanted to see his brother, and give me some advice, as well.”

During that visit, Abdur-Rahim talked about his experience at Cal, and his experience staying connected to the University.

Brown wanted to talk to as many resources as possible, he says, including Abdur-Rahim, but that only happened late in the process.

"I wanted to be sure I was ready, and I was confident," he said of his methodical approach. "I feel extremely confident and comfortable with my decision."

Brown made the decision on Thursday, and, as he's been an intensely private person, he did not share the process of that decision, preferring to keep the other details to himself. He did, however, late in the process, talk with Abdur-Rahim.

“Never, not until maybe the last couple of weeks," Abdur-Rahim said. "All the conversations have really been about this experience, to try to get the most out of the experience in college, the experience of Cal and everything it has to offer, all the people here. I think, more than anything, I think he’s done that. He really, really, really has engaged the community, the University, things that I didn’t do until I came back to school. When I was here, that was such a rush, there was so much going on athletically. I was doing my work, but I wasn’t engaged the way he was. He’s done an awesome job of really, really engaging.”

As for the team he's leaving?

"We started history here, first team to go 18-0 at home since 1956, it's been tremendous to be a part of it with you guys," Brown said. "The education here has been crazy. I can't speak highly enough about the education here at California-Berkeley. When I made my decision, I knew there was something about California-Berkeley. The people here, just to be around like-minded individuals has been a pleasure, people here make a difference. People come here to change the world, and I'm one of those people."

This season, Brown was named a freshman All-American by the US Basketball Writers Association, named the eighth Bear to earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors, was the only freshman named to the first-team All-Pac-12 squad, scored at least 13 points in 11 straight games.

"I will always be a Golden Bear," Brown said. "I will always be a Golden Bear."

"I'm really happy for Jaylen," Martin said. "I'll be 45 years old, and I've learned a tremendous amount from Jaylen. His humility, his understanding about life, I think he'll be very successful, not only in basketball, but in life. He has tremendous leadership skills. A lot of times, a guy with his talent, at his age, they come with a level of cockiness, but not Jaylen. He values his teammates, he values your opinion, and that speaks to how he was raised."

Brown's mother was in attendance, and he recognized several of his professors in attendance, as well, and one of those professors brought youth scholars, who had their own questions for Brown.

"This is what it's about: Being here at Cal-Berkeley, being one of those people who change the world," Brown said. "I can't wait to share things I've learned here. That's what it's about -- giving back to the community, helping people that I don't even know exist. I know that I wish I had somebody to come back and talk to me about things that happened about the California university, rather than who made the last dunk or who was on ESPN yesterday. I will cherish this for the rest of my life. You have my word that I will give back to the community. I have a lot of influence, and I want to use it the right way."

He has decided to hire an agent, but has not, as of yet.

"You're talking about a guy who's 19 years old, and I think he has the potential to be the first pick in the draft," Martin said. "He has size, athleticism and mental toughness, but his biggest strength is to learn and grow."

Brown said he will continue his education, and he's talked about it with his advisor. He will be taking classes over the course of his career, trying "to finish my degree as quickly as possible."

Brown has not decided where he will train for the Draft Combine. Top Stories