Last season, Norfolk State turned to Cahiem Brown, the 6-foot-5-inch guard to lead the program. His journey to this point is one that stretches far beyond basketball.
Brown’s story begins in Coney Island, N.Y. He started with basketball started right as he began walking.
“I was able to start walking at around six months,” he said. “My dad said I was walking and dribbling the ball at the same time.”
But as he was growing up, Brown faced adversity, especially when his mom passed away after struggling with a variety of diseases. As Brown was dealt with hardship at a young age, he learned to preserve.
The guard began high school at St. Raymond, where he was a force to be reckoned with. In the three years he was at there, he averaged double figures. He then transferred to Lincoln High School to cut down on his previously long commute, which he said was a three hours.
Brown’s success on the court translated to offers and an active recruitment.
“Coming from Coney Island, a lot of people have talent, but often people don’t make it out,” Brown said. “Having the opportunity to do so, I was focused on getting the furthest away.”
Brown held offers from the likes of Seton Hall and Minnesota, but elected to commit to UTEP. To Brown’s complete dismay though, he didn’t have a spot on the team.
“The night before classes started, I was told someone signed my scholarship,” he said. “It was a total 360.”
At the time, Brown was lost. He was unsure what his next steps would look like.
Brown returned to New York and raised his baby girl with his girlfriend. He began working at a sandwich spot in Dumbo, which was located underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I went from being a high school star to being a new father, he said. “I had to navigate myself. I learned I had to start doing things myself.”
Brown had several interactions with people who recognized him and berated him with questions, and soon self doubt started to creep into his mind.
“I was questioning myself,” Brown said. “‘Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life? Do I really just want to get by?’ I fell into depression. I needed to focus on myself and get my mind right.”
Brown’s life had gone haywire in such a short amount of time. A high school star, expecting to play Division I ball at UTEP, was now then working in a sandwich spot while raising a young kid. Brown decided he couldn’t think about basketball.
Ultimately though, his love for the game crept back into his mind, and he knew basketball had to be involved in his life, again.
In 2018, Brown committed to Georgia Highlands College, a community college in Georgia. In no time, Brown was putting up stellar numbers. He averaged 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists, but then he got injured. After just seven games, Brown came down with a rebound, which caused a grade three Jones fracture.
“I was taught, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” Brown said. “I kept playing on, and it made the fracture worse.”
He then began rehabbing and building up his strength back up.
“I’ve never been someone who gives up,” he said. “Because if you’re about to give up, something could happen in your favor.”
Brown drew inspiration from his young his daughter.
The season of 2019-20 was Brown’s second year at Georgia Highlands, and he was getting his stride back. He posted a stat line of 15.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and shot 34.4% from three.
But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Not only was Brown forced to sit out some games due to catching the virus, but he suffered a heart condition due to the disease. When Brown had COVID-19, he had minimal symptoms, which prompted a rushed recovery back. With his love of the game of basketball, he wanted to feel the hardwood as soon as possible.
“My body was still fighting back, but I felt good,” he said. “I just wanted to get in the gym.”
When Brown finished quarantine, the gym was his first stop. He recalls working out for around a week straight, until one night he felt dehydrated and unable to catch his breath. Brown was admitted into the hospital. After tests, Brown was diagnosed with myocarditis.
“I had the mindset of wanting basketball to help me navigate things,” he said. “It was a mindset thing, I was extremely focused.”
Brown finished his redshirt sophomore season at Georgia Highlands averaging 14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
“I just stayed down and worked hard until it was my time,” he said.
Brown’s time had come, and after a busy recruitment, Brown decided on Norfolk State.
“I had a great connection with Coach Jones,” Brown said. “It was also me wanting to play for a Historically black university. I wanted to see the power in playing for an HBCU.”
In Brown’s first season for Norfolk State, his playing time was erratic. He started one game, and averaged 5.3 points. Brown wasn’t satisfied though, he knew there was more in the tank.
The following season, during his junior campaign, this past season, the work had come to fruition. The days of preparation had started to appear.
In the fourth game of the season, Brown posted 13 points against UCLA. Two weeks later, Brown finished with 11 points against the No. 1 team at the time, Houston. To Brown though, it was all meant to happen.
“Coming from Coney Island, which has so many basketball junkies, it was really cool,” he said. “I was proud, but the competitor in me was showing people that I’ve still got it, and that I’m here.”
At the end of the season, Brown averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
“It’s a blessing to do things I’ve always dreamed of,” he said.