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Brown finishes with a flourish at Lake Zurich
 

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Brown finishes with a flourish at Lake Zurich
  • Dave Brown competed in basketball, tennis and cross country this school year for Lake Zurich High School.

    Purchase Photo | Dave Brown competed in basketball, tennis and cross country this school year for Lake Zurich High School. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Ross Forman

When Dave Brown lost his final tennis match of the season, thus ending his high school sports career at Lake Zurich, he paused, reflected and shed a few tears.

The 2013-14 school year certainly was a memorable sporting slate for Brown, 18, a senior who is heading to Grand Rapids, Mich., in the fall to resume his tennis career at Calvin College.

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Brown was the Bears' lone three-sport male athlete, with six varsity letters earned over the past three years -- three from tennis, two from basketball and one from cross country. And one of his biggest sporting regrets was not running cross country as a sophomore and junior, too.

"As soon as high school sports ended, I was really glad that I did all that I did," said Brown, a Lake Zurich resident who now just needs a racket to play for the Knights, who compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

"High school sports were such a big part of my life, so, when they ended, it was tough. I put in a lot of hard work, for all three sports, and now it's over -- and that's when I really felt it."

Brown posted a 13-10 record for the Bears this spring at No. 1 singles. He was a team captain in basketball who proved his worth well beyond the free-throw line. Brown was regularly a top-three finisher among Lake Zurich cross country runners and, at state, was the team's fastest finisher on Detweiller Park's 3-mile course, finishing in 15:23.

"When you really want something, work for it. I knew that balancing three sports would mean that I really would have to be careful with my time, get the most out of it, so I focused on that," said Brown, whose limited free time over the past nine months was spent with friends, family or resting. He also would watch TV "to give my mind a break," he said.

Brown was mostly in honors classes. He chose Calvin over Bradley, Dayton and Milwaukee School of Engineering, and he plans to pursue a civil engineering degree.

"Calvin seemed most suited for me," he said. "Plus, I may be able to help out in another sport."

That's because John Ross, the men's tennis coach at Calvin, also is the school's women's basketball coach. Brown and Ross have already talked hoops, and Brown may be a practice player for the basketball team once a week.

"I'm really excited to get to Calvin," Brown said. "I always tried to take the challenge of being a leader or mentor for the teams."

Brown was lured to cross county by Lake Zurich's dominance over the past several years. Lake Zurich finished second in the state in 2010, only 2 points behind York. And the Bears were fourth in state in 2012.

"I heard that the team might be down this year, so that was a challenge," he said.

Brown admitted that, when he first joined the cross country team, some questioned whether he'd be able to compete.

"So I thought it was great to be able to rise to the challenge," he said. "I didn't feel too much pressure in cross country. Others looked nervous before races, but, in my mind, it was my third sport, so I wasn't so nervous."

After his last race, he hustled to basketball.

"Although I didn't get very much playing time, I thought I could still be a team leader," said Brown, who often repeated the calls on the bench and always was the first to offer water to teammates during a timeout. "I always knew a lot about basketball. I made myself a student of the game."

He read the scouting reports, repeatedly. So, if he got a chance to play, "I would do my best," he said.

Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher called Brown "a great kid, super hardworking, the kind who was never above doing anything."

In practices, that often meant Brown played on the scout team, even as a senior. And yet never with a complaint.

"I was just happy to be on the court with my teammates," Brown said. "It was really nice that coach made me a captain this year and anytime I got to be out on the floor, I made sure I left a piece of me out there. Being named captain showed me that everything I worked for had a purpose."

Brown played key late-in-the-game minutes during a Christmastime, come-from-behind win over Plainfield East.

"Though I didn't make the winning shots, just to be on the floor and help my team to win that exciting game, it was such a thrill," he said.

Brown also reflected fondly on this season's senior night game against Highland Park and a sophomore season game against Zion-Benton that the Bears ultimately lost in four overtimes, despite his 14 points.

"David was just an awesome person to have on the team. We wouldn't have had the success we did this season without him," Pitcher said. "It didn't matter to him if, during crunchtime in a game, he was playing or on the bench. If he was on the bench, he'd be our biggest cheerleader. He always just wanted to help the team, however possible."

Brown admittedly absorbed everything basketball this season because, someday, he wants to get into coaching.

And what about quitting due to limited playing time?

No chance

"There was no way I would quit (the team)," he said. "Basketball was too much a part of my life."

But for the next few years, he strictly will be tennis-focused.

"As a freshman, I was on the bottom of the JV lineup. That was tough, but I just kept making improvements," he said. "I played No. 2 doubles as a sophomore, then No. 1 doubles as a junior and No. 1 singles this year.

"Playing against some of the best players in the state, I was happy to have had a winning record, get my wins when I did, especially with so many of the top teams in the state in our conference.

"Tennis was a whole lot of fun. It didn't have as much pressure as basketball did. I felt a little bit freer in tennis."

And yes, he'd do it all over again. All three sports.

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