By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Among all of Duarte High School girls basketball standout Imari Brown’s gaudy stats, there’s only one that really matters to the sophomore: assists. She’s got plenty of them, too, an average of 10.1 per game. But Brown’s assists are just one part of a dynamic stats package that includes 17.4 points, 15.2 rebounds and 8.2 steals per game.
“I’d really rather have more assists than points because I like to see my team do well,” Brown said. “Without my team, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I can’t inbound the ball to myself. I can’t pass it to myself. My team has really helped me a lot.”
Thanks to Brown, her team is doing quite well. Lost in the haze of other area basketball powers like Bonita, Bishop Amat and Muir is Duarte, owning a 13-1 overall record and showing signs it will trample a Montview League that’s usually dominated by Sierra Vista.
But it’s not just Duarte’s strong record, led by Brown’s impressive stats. It’s the way the Falcons are winning.
No Duarte victory this season has come by less than 10 points. The lone loss was a 17-point defeat against Keppel in the third game of the season.
As impressive as those numbers are, there’s one more Duarte coach Mark Smith is most proud of – the team’s grade point average.
“They have a 3.8 team GPA,” Smith said. “They know they’re students first. They’re more competitive in the classroom than they are on the court, and I love it.
“That’s unusual and that’s what I’m excited about.”
Despite what the numbers say, Brown is far from a one-girl show. The Falcons have a 6-foot-3 center in Yasmine Wilson and a 5-foot-10 forward in Mikayla Tickey. But Brown’s ability to do everything has put the Falcons over the top.
Brown started playing basketball when she was 2 years old after her parents bought her a toy set that was constructed in the family living room. She continued as she got older and played with her parents in a nearby park.
Brown’s mother Carla even played for Smith at Duarte in 1987.
Brown’s game progressed from the playground to the middle school gym where she met her first adversity as an athlete. Brown broke her ankle while playing basketball and the subsequent time away from the game combined with poor eating habits made her gain weight.
Once healthy, Brown began working out at Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University in order to get back in shape. Her freshman season at Duarte was solid. She averaged nearly 11 points per game and the Falcons won 17 games.
Given the way her stats exploded as a sophomore, the best may be yet to come. But that hasn’t stopped Brown from thinking big things could be in the offing for her team this season.
“I always tell my team that we’re good enough to be in the state championship,” Brown said. “It sounds kind of weird because Duarte’s history really isn’t good, but as young as we are, we have a sense it’s going to happen either this year or next year.
“I just feel like what we have to get there.”