The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team did not make the postseason but one of its players did and he made the most of the opportunity.
Kamari Brown, a fifth-year senior guard who is scheduled to graduate in May, dazzled on a national stage as he won the King’s Hawaiian Slam Dunk Championship last week in Houston in an event televised nationally on ESPN2
The event was staged as part of the Final Four weekend festivities and was held at the Bayou Music Center before a loud and raucous crowd looking for highlight film dunks. And they got them. In spades.
The 6-foot-3 Brown's stunning 47-inch vertical leap proved to be critical to his win as one of eight contestants. He defeated Radford University’s Shaquan Jules to claim the title.
To give you an idea of what a 47-inch vertical leap means the winner of this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest was 6-2 Mac McClung of the Philadelphia 76ers-G League, whose vertical leap was measured at 43.5 inches at the 2021 draft combine.
Brown said he did not become aware of the contest until he talked to Chuck Millan, owner and founder of Team Flight Brothers, seeking advice on how he could improve his dunking skills.
Millan is a dunking guru who has mentored several NBA players, including McClung, seeking to improve their ability to get airborne, especially when the dunk contest rolls around.
The dunk contest is an opportunity for unsung or unknown players to suddenly and quickly get their name before the public and enhance their standing among their peers.
“I contacted him and told him a little about me and what I was looking to accomplish,” Brown said. “He told me about me about the dunk contest and asked if I wanted to be in it. I told him I didn’t know anything about it, but I would like to be in it.”
Millan used his connections to get Brown the invite.
“That was around March 11 and the contest was March 30 so that gave me almost three weeks to get ready,” Brown said. “I saw it an opportunity to wear my Georgia Southern jersey one more time, to represent my school and my team and the community.”
While Brown worked daily there was one dunk which blew everyone’s mind and made a lasting impression on anyone who saw it. And, Brown said, it got him into the finals.
With five judges grading on a scale of 1-10 Brown was in third-place with 47 points after the first round. On the next jump he broke from the left corner, took a lob pass and jammed it home to draw a score of 50.
That got him into the semifinals and set the stage for his next dunk which saw him use that powerful vertical leap to clear three young women standing midway between the rim and the foul line for an unquestioned 50 points.
“I thought about it going into Houston but I needed to find three girls willing to be a part of it,” Brown said. “I had tried it once in junior college (Panola) when I was messing around in a practice gym. I did it over three teammates but I hadn’t done it since.
“I had done it at Hanner before going to Houston when I jumped over Lars Gielhaug who was one of our Georgia Southern managers,” Brown said. “Then the night before I was talking to these girls and asked them if they would be willing to let me jump over them.
“I told them to trust me, that I could do it. They said they trusted me. That’s how that came about and that was the jump that got me the chance to win the championship.”
On his championship dunk, a one-hand slam, Brown got a score of 47 and then got the break of a lifetime when Jules’ attempt hit the back of the rim. Although it dropped through the net it did not count as a dunk and he was given a score of 23.
“I felt confident going in,” Brown said. “I’m a guy who prays a lot and puts everything in God’s hands. After watching the first round I got more confident and then I got the two 50s.”
For his efforts Brown was given a large championship belt and the basketball he used followed by being told he had also won $5,000 which came as a shock.
“I had no idea about the $5,000,” Brown said. “That was a total surprise. I just wanted to go out there and be a champion and wear my jersey one last time.”
Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., Brown transferred to Georgia Southern for the 2020-21 season from Panola College in Texas. He averaged 8 points and four rebounds per game over his three-year career with the Eagles.
Brown said he will be declaring for the NBA draft and hopes to play professionally at some level. Winning the dunk championship has given him some name recognition which he hopes will help along the way.
And, if pro basketball doesn’t work out, he said whatever he does sports will be involved.