Groton — Ah, American teenagers. Shall we count the ways they annoy us?
Can’t be bothered to converse because they’re too busy texting. Know everything about everything. Favorite facial expression: the eyeroll.
Or maybe the T-shirt says it best: “After parenting a teenager, I became a hostage negotiator. Seemed less stressful.”
All of which makes Ajia Brown a different kind of cat. He says “sir” a lot in casual conversation. He actually converses. And he can do so with adults as easy as his friends. Makes you pine for more like him.
Brown, a senior at Fitch High, just had quite the week. He became the fifth boys’ basketball player to join the program’s 1,000-point club. That was two days after learning he’d earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Not bad.
“Just a great kid,” Brown’s coach, Charles Sylvan, was saying earlier this week, just before the Falcons prepared for Thursday’s conference tournament quarterfinal game against New London. (Fellow senior) Adriel (Atad) is the one who keeps them all together and Ajia is the type A personality that drags the sled. He’s the hype man. Gets all the energy going. He gets everything moving downhill, a thrust for the team.”
Brown had every intention — or mostly every intention — of attending Coast Guard Academy. It’s just that there was one little detail looming. He hadn’t yet heard from Navy, the dream school, since the seventh grade.
“Kind of ironic,” Brown said. “I was ready to sign the papers to go to Coast Guard. An hour after, I got the e-mail from Navy saying I got an appointment. I always wanted to join the Navy after college and wanted to go to college for an engineering degree. What better place to do both?
Clearly, the Navy poohbahs saw the same things Brown’s family, friends and acquaintances see every day: Mr. Personable. Mr. Accountable.
“His communication is a big part of his development here,” Sylvan said. “One thing we always emphasize in practice is communication. We talk about having transferrable life skills. Not just analytical intelligence but practical intelligence. Communication is part of it. There are a lot of geniuses in the world who don’t function because of that. Ajia has taken the initiative to lead and applies it day to day.”
And the genesis of such skills?
“Well, I’m the Student Council President and I give tours to families every day. On the fly, too. Over the past four years I’ve gotten used to being able to talk off the cuff and speak professionally and respectfully.”
Then he paused and said, “but I’d be lying if I didn’t give the credit to my mom (Liz). Anytime I get remotely out of line, she makes sure I’m right back in line. She doesn’t mess around. She’s a Corrections Officer. She knows how to get things through to me.”
This is a basketball story, too. Brown became part of Fitch lore and legend last week, joining program royalty with 1,000 points: Gerald Henderson, Glen Miller, Jarion Childs and Todd Doyle. He’s the first Fitch kid overall to eclipse 1,000 since Aubrey Latham did so in 2009.
“To be one of five guys up there, it’s a tremendous honor,” Brown said. “And the only one of the decade male or female. I’m very proud of it.”
So is his coach.
“He’s been the tortoise who won the race. Slow and steady. A model of consistency,” he said. “We’re all seeing the accumulation of the points and the wins now.”
Speaking of: Fitch just had a 17-win regular season. The Falcons, in Division IV (with many smaller schools) have a chance to win the first state championship in school history. Now THAT would send Ajia Brown out as no other at 102 Groton Long Pt. Road.
“The three losses we had knocked us down a peg,” Brown said. “To be completely honest, we were kind of our high horse. Having those three losses and knowing we’re not untouchable is keeping us levelheaded.”
And so is their leader who is headed to Navy.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro