EDITOR NOTE: Amna Subhan is an Arizona State University journalism student who wrote this feature on Sahuaro High School standout Alyssa Brown as a special to AllSportsTucson.com.
While working her job at Home Depot, Alyssa Brown felt her phone buzzing with text messages and phone calls. She knew what it was about.
It was June 18 when azcentral Sports Awards premiered. She remembered because her grandmother counted down the days since she’d been nominated.
Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry announced Brown’s win.
“It was unreal,” she said of Curry calling her name. “I was kinda hyped up for the rest of my shift.”
Azcentral’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year was among nine other awards the 6-foot-1 forward racked up following her junior season at Sahuaro High School. Brown averaged 31.4 points and 9.7 rebounds under coach Steve Botkin.
It’s a family affair, Botkin said. He’s held the same position for more than 20 years and coached Brown’s two older sisters. Now, they’re on the bench alongside him as assistants.
“That family is exceptional,” he said.
Brown broke Arizona’s single-season scoring record of 932 points in 2019-20. In January, she also broke the Sahuaro career record of 1,575 points held by her older sister Sydney. She has the opportunity to eclipse 3,000 points in her career standing at 2,094 entering her senior season. Former Catalina Foothills star Julie Brase, Lute Olson’s granddaughter, holds the state record with 2,913, a mark that is within Brown’s reach.
“It’s everything,” Brown said about having her sisters as coaches. “That definitely brought us closer being stuck together in the gym for three to four hours a day.”
Sports have long been woven in the fabric of Brown’s family; her grandfather Gene Moore played basketball at the University of Arizona in the early 1970s.
“My mom actually left the gym to give birth to me,” Brown said.
Her mother, Lisa Moore, also has a prominent role with the team having served as the booster club president for more than a decade. Around the team, she’s known as “Mama Lisa.”
She handles off-court tasks like settling funding, making sure the girls eat or harping on them to finish their homework. Brown reflects those thoughtful qualities by always checking in on her teammates especially on road trips, Moore said. However, she noted something deeper in her daughter.
“She’s what you’d call a lost child,” she said.
In between her two older sisters and her younger brother, Brown became independent early. With the focus on her sisters’ many sporting events, as a child Brown took the initiative in packing herself snacks, Moore recalled.
Botkin said he sees that maturity take form on and off the court. On the court, she goes 100 percent, even in practice. He often reminds her to slow down and not risk injury, but it makes for a competitive practice as others follow suit.
Off the court, she leads not just her team but her peers as junior class president. Recently, Brown led discussions with classmates on the current Black Lives Matter movement. She listened to their questions and provided answers and ways to help.
“Certain people have that lure about them,” Botkin said. “You look at them and say, ‘Wow she’s really a leader.’”
She’s like an energizer bunny, Moore said. Her daughter’s initiative surprises her at times. Brown started working on her own volition to buy herself a car, all while participating in club and school teams and maintaining a 4.2 GPA.
After winning Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, she donated her $1,000 award to a local charity, Pay it Forward. Her mom had no idea she chose that until Moore read an article about it.
Pay it Forward works to lift poverty levels in the Tucson community by providing basic-living necessities such as food, housing and more to low-income people.
“It was one of the less-known organizations,” Brown said. “They don’t have a really consistent source of income so that sorta sparked the interest in them.”
Botkin said her humbleness translates to game play. Brown has a “team mentality” first, he noted, despite trying to impress college scouts. He said she always uplifts her teammates and stoically leads by example.
“You wouldn’t know that she scores 31 points a game because she distributes the ball getting her teammates involved,” he said. “And doing all of those things that make girls love playing with her.”
After a gutting 70-40 state championship loss to Seton Catholic, Botkin said Brown consoled the seniors losing out on their last chance, then looked at others and pumped them up for a second bite at the apple.
The loss left a sour taste in her mouth, Brown said. Now she’s using the loss as motivation to elevate her game.
“It sparks a conversation that some of those girls haven’t had before,” she said. “Getting them fired up for next year and getting myself fired up for next year, it’s kinda exciting.”
Moore said her daughter transformed their living room into a weight room. She shoots more than 300 shots in a warehouse-type gym with no air conditioning and will get up the next day ready to do it all over again.
While Brown pushes to redeem the loss, Moore said she’s already blown away by her daughter’s talent level. Watching video she records during games, Moore often asks, “Did she really just do that?”
Brown ranks No. 12 in her position nationally, according to ESPN. More than 15 schools have offered her a scholarship already. Botkin said wherever she decides to play, they’ll get a great leader on the team and on campus as well.
“Every time she’s on the court, she elevates her game a level,” Moore said. “Everything she does off the court, she’s just turning into a really great human being.”