Freeport’s Brown follows in mother’s footsteps with selection to Cager Classic

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Friday, March 22, 2019 | 9:35 PM


Jalen Brown paused a moment before describing the impact his mother, Eve VanDyke, has had on his life and his basketball career.

“She’s meant everything to me,” he said. “She’s been there for me through the good times and all the bad times.”

VanDyke has never missed one of Brown’s games going back to his elementary days all the way through his senior season this year at Freeport, and she’ll be in the stands Saturday when the pair will share a unique distinction.

VanDyke and Brown are believed to be the first parent and child combination to both be selected to play in the Cager Classic. Van Dyke played in the second edition of the event in 1998.

“It’s really cool to see it happen,” VanDyke said. “It makes me proud and brings back memories for me for sure.”

The 23rd annual Cager Classic takes place Saturday at Highlands, with the girls all-star game at 5:45 p.m. and the boys at 7:45.

VanDyke has a box with all of her memorabilia from her career at Freeport, including her Cager Classic uniform.

“I told Jalen that I’m going to wear my Cager shirt on Saturday in case they need another player,” VanDyke said jokingly.

VanDyke doesn’t remember much about playing in the game other than making a lot of new friends from other school districts and that the entire event was a positive experience.

Brown, a La Roche recruit, will have a similar experience this weekend. He’ll be reunited with seven former teammates from his days playing on the Top Level AAU basketball team.

“I’m just looking forward to competing with the guys I’ve played against my whole basketball career and getting to play with them one more time,” Brown said. “Since I was younger I’ve always wanted to play in this game. It’s nice finally being at that age to compete in it. I went to the game a lot growing up.”

Basketball has been a major part of the family, and they are big fans of Duke. Brown’s grandfather, Bill Brown, is the winningest coach in Cal (Pa.) men’s basketball history and is currently an assistant at Duquesne under Keith Dambrot.

“Basketball has always been our thing,” VanDyke said. “This is a huge time of the year for us with March Madness. Jalen and I are very close. We talk a lot about basketball, and I’m so proud of him that he’s going on to play at the next level at La Roche.”

Freeport coach Wayne Greiser played basketball with VanDyke’s older brother Charlie and got to see her play in high school. Greiser said VanDyke was a better shooter than her son and joked that he wished Brown could’ve got her shooting gene.

He’s looking forward to see Brown play this weekend.

“It’s definitely neat that they are the first parent/child combinations to play in the Cager,” Greiser said. “I’m sure there will be more of those to come because we’re getting to that point and it’s good to see that the Cager has been around that long. When I graduated in ’96, there wasn’t a Cager Classic.”

Greiser is proud of the growth Brown showed the last few years where he went from a junior varsity player as a freshman to a varsity starter as a sophomore. Freeport made the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs in all three of Brown’s seasons as starter.

“Usually when you start a 10th grader you played varsity as a ninth grader,” Greiser said. “He’s just developed and it was nice to see him blossom. It’s good to see La Roche saw it as well and now he’s got an opportunity to keep playing.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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