Saturday, October 30, 1999

Xavier guards best friends




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[guards]
Alvin Brown, left, and Maurice McAfee.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)

| ZOOM |
        They had each other's phone number but refused to call. Why would I? I don't even know him. That's what they both thought.

        Then Maurice McAfee and Alvin Brown arrived on Xavier's campus. Brown came from Washington, D.C., McAfee from Saginaw, Mich. The Musketeers were still wrapping up their trip to England and Ireland. McAfee and Brown had only each other.

        Before meeting, they each locked up some possessions in the dorm room they shared, unsure if they could trust each other. They would laugh about that later.

        The day they met, they ended up at Schmidt Fieldhouse, going one-on-one for hours. “We played a lot of games that day,” Brown said. “I guess it was to clear our minds.”

        Afterward, they talked. A lot. They discovered they were similar: Introverted, close to their families.

        “I asked questions about how he felt about the school and he said the same things I was feeling,” Brown said. “I guess we just clicked.”

        That was August 1997. Two years later, they are best friends. They were roommates for two years. Now their apartments are next door to each other. They socialize often.

        “Every time someone sees me on campus they're like, "Where's your other half? Where's your shadow?'” McAfee said.

        Their relationship can only help the Musketeers this season.

        Brown, the Washington, D.C.-area player of the year as a high school shooting guard, is being asked to back up McAfee at point guard. McAfee, after being Gary Lumpkin's understudy for two years, is getting his first chance to start.

        It is a pivotal year for both. If McAfee struggles, so will Xavier. There is no other scholarship point guard eligible. If Brown struggles, the Musketeers will have little backcourt depth.

        “Whatever I know, I'll try and transfer it to him and let him know some things that will get him by in a game, or get him past coach yelling at him,” McAfee said. “That's the same thing G (Lumpkin) did for me. Anything to make it easier. We all have one common goal and that's to make the NCAA Tournament. ... He's capable of playing point. I know that, and he knows that.”

        Said Brown: “I'm ready for it. I just want to get on the court and play.”

        McAfee and Brown have always talked about being Xavier's next great guard tandem. They planned to follow four-year starters Lumpkin and Lenny Brown and carve their own identity as a backcourt.

        Their plans have been derailed somewhat. Brown broke a bone in his left wrist and ended up redshirting his freshman year. Last season, McAfee came off the bench to play the sixth-most number of minutes (678) while averaging 8.2 points. Brown played only 104 minutes, totaling 53 points.

        With Darnell Williams returning for a fifth year — he sat out last season with a knee injury — Brown was destined to be the backup shooting guard, and he should play that role to some extent. But after freshman Lionel Chalmers was declared ineligible, coach Skip Prosser tapped Brown as the best candidate to be the No.2 point guard.

        “I went straight to Moe and asked him a lot of questions,” Brown said. “I still ask him a lot of questions. It's easier to talk to him. If he criticizes me, it's easier because I know he's telling the truth.”

        On the court, McAfee has kept Brown's spirits up, helping him cope with injuries and limited playing time. They have inside jokes. Sometimes when McAfee does something, Brown will be the only one laughing.

        Brown has helped McAfee off the court. McAfee admits to having a bad temper as a freshman. Brown's response was: “Chill.” Which is exactly what McAfee has learned to do. “He helped me calm down a lot,” McAfee said.

        When McAfee was injured (bruised ribs) during Xavier's NIT quarterfinal game against Princeton last March, Brown came off the bench and provided a spark with a 3-pointer, then a steal and layup. That cut Princeton's lead to two late in the second half.

        McAfee was leading the cheers.

        “He got out there and did his thing,” McAfee said. “I was happy for him to be able to finally get in and show everyone that he's capable of being a big-time player, because he is.

        “When I do good, it kind of reflects on him, and when he does good it kind of reflects on me because we spend so much time together.”

       



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