College Basketball: Thornton alum Brian Greene Jr. adjusting to Auburn
By Patrick Z. McGavin For Sun-Times Media January 4, 2013 6:18PM
Brian Greene Jr., shown in a 2011 game, went to prep school in Florida before being recruited to play at Auburn. | File photo
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:26AM
The more than 18,000 fans who packed the United Center on the final Saturday of 2012 cheered almost exclusively for Illinois playing a special match-up vs. Auburn.
Brian Greene Jr. was the only Tiger who genuinely felt at home. The former Thornton star, in his freshman season at Auburn, entered the game against the Illini and promptly drilled a three-pointer from the left wing.
“I wish I’d hit a few more,” Greene said.
He also had his own cheering section. Greene distributed his 13 allotted tickets to family and friends who turned up on the West Side to watch his return home. Greene scored three points and registered a steal in 13 minutes for the Tigers, who lost 81-79 to the No. 12 Illini.
Still, it was impressive that Greene was playing in the United Center at all. An athletic-though-undersized shooting guard at Thornton, Greene seemed destined to play in midtier conferences such as the Horizon League or Conference USA instead of the Southeastern Conference, one of the best leagues in the country.
“My recruiting really blew up,” Greene said after the Illinois game.
After graduating from Thornton in the spring 2011, Greene opted against going to college immediately, preferring to do a postgraduate year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
His coach was very familiar with his game. Loren Jackson had separate coaching stints at Julian and Fenger in the Public League. In 2010, Jackson left Julian to become the coach of IMG’s postgraduate squad.
“IMG was just like a college,” Greene said. “You had a schedule, very detailed and planned workouts that combined basketball and academics. I matured a lot going there.”
Two players with Julian connections, Phillip Greene (no relation) and Jamari Traylor, played on IMG’s high school team. They now are attending St. John’s and Kansas, respectively.
In addition to Jackson, the program is directed by former NBA player Kenny Natt. It’s closer to specialized training, such as tennis or speedskating.
“They also had an international team,” Greene said. “It was an intense experience, but very helpful. I had a great time there. I had a chance to really work on my skills and develop every aspect of my game.”
After Greene signed with Auburn, Jackson said on the school’s website: “He had all the pieces — we just helped him complete the picture.”
Greene said during his time at IMG Academy he secured scholarship offers from Mississippi, Iowa and Mississippi State, and interest from Tennessee.
“I just had a great visit when I went to Auburn. I really loved the environment and the atmosphere,” he said.
His transition to major college basketball has been up and down. Playing in each of Auburn’s first 13 contests, Greene was averaging just under 2 points, 2 steals and an assist through the Illinois game. In a November start against Rhode Island, he shot 3-of-3 from the floor in scoring a season-high eight points, and added two assists and two steals in 12 minutes.
“I started probably three or four games, but I’ve been in a shooting slump and I have to work my way out of that,” he said.
Junior guard Chris Denson, forced to sit out the first seven games, has returned to the lineup and cut into Greene’s minutes.
“It’s a new system for me and there’s definitely a learning experience,” Greene said. “Coach (Tony Barbee) is a tough coach and he’s very demanding, but I think I’m adjusting pretty well. I’m really looking forward to the start of SEC play.”