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Talented Student Signs to WU Girls Basketball (5722 hits)

MIDDLETOWN When Margaret Commodore suffered a brain aneurysm four years ago, it could have disabled her daughter, too.

Deidra Brown, then a freshman at Middletown High School, said her mother's illness left her "lost and confused."

Middies basketball standout and prom queen Deidra Brown (right) and her mother, Margaret Commodore, on the front porch of their Middletown home Wednesday, May 14. Commodore suffered a brain aneurysm four years ago, and her daughter has helped care for her. Click to enlarge
Middletown?s Deidra Brown drives around Lakota East?s Tyler Darland as she brings the ball upcourt during the second quarter of a Jan. 19 game at Lakota East High School.Click to enlarge
Columnist Rick McCrabbClick to enlarge
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Luckily for Brown, now a senior at MHS, her safety net included teachers, administrators, friends and family, including an uncle, Darren Brown.

It takes a city not a village to get a student enrolled in college.

Deidra Brown, prom queen and a standout basketball player for the Middies, recently signed a letter of intent to continue her playing career and studies at Wilberforce University.

The drive from Middletown to Wilberforce is only 45 miles, but the distance Brown traveled the last four years is immeasurable.

When Brown said she wanted to go to college and pursue a degree, a first in her family her uncle, a 1979 MHS graduate stepped forward and took charge. He has been in constant contact with the Middletown Board of Education, administrators at the high school, the National Collegiate Athletic Association clearinghouse, potential colleges and completed piles of paperwork.

He became a salesman for his niece's talents.

"I'm telling you," Darren Brown said, "it's been a lot of hard work."

All of the hours, the financial investment and the frustration paid off when his niece signed at Wilberforce.

"Seeing that smile on her face and hearing the relief in her voice man, that felt good," said Brown, who frequently flew to Middletown from his home in Washington, D.C., where he serves as director of procurement for the Federal Highway Administration.

Last week, when Deidra Brown was honored as one of the Pigskin Roundball Spectacular Athletes of the Month during a dinner at the Manchester Inn, Darren Brown was in the audience.

"As an uncle," he said, "I have to help my blood."

He hopes his niece excels academically and athletically and serves as a role model for her siblings and other Middletown students facing adversity.

"She has shown that regardless of your situation, regardless of what side of the railroad tracks you come from, if you believe in yourself and in Jesus Christ, you can be successful," he said.

It would have been easy, he said, for Deidra Brown to use her mother's illness as an "excuse." Instead, he said, that setback was a "motivational piece" for her.

"She has come a mighty, mighty long way," he said.

And her journey isn't over.

"She has unlimited potential," her uncle said.

Student-athlete gets support in her quest for a college degree

It'd be easy to look at Deidra Brown and see another successful athlete produced by Middletown High School.

The hallways are full of similar students athletes who played for four years, excelled in their particular sport, and one day during their senior season, signed a letter of intent to continue their playing career and education in college.

Next season, Brown, who scored 877 points during her four-year basketball career at MHS, which ranks third on the girls all-time scoring list, will play for Wilberforce University near Xenia, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school that competes in the American Mideast Conference.

No big deal, you say.

But for Brown, no matter what she accomplishes at Wilberforce, her journey will be more interesting than her destination. To appreciate where she's heading, you first must understand where she started.

She's like that massive oak tree in the backyard you ignore, until you remember planting it as a sapling.

Brown probably never will make the school's athletic hall of fame, never have a hallway named in her honor, never have her jersey number retired.

And that's a shame.

No one is more deserving. While Brown's athletic accomplishments are impressive first-team all league, first-team Division I District 15, and honorable mention Division I Southwest District as a senior, and some say basketball isn't even her bet sport, nothing compares to what she achieved off the court.

Toward the end of her freshman basketball season, her mother, Margaret Commodore, suffered a brain aneurysm that left her fighting for her life. She was paralyzed, and needed around-the-clock care that continues today.

Four years later, while her mother's health is improving, Brown admits: "I'm still not over it. It's your mom, you'll probably never get over it."

Her father, Dennis Brown, didn't live at home. She was 14. And alone.

"There were times when I thought about quitting," Brown said while sitting in the high school's media center. "It was easy to get down, get depressed."

This is where Brown's life turned. She went from potential quitter to achiever, from possible high school dropout to Class of 2008 graduate.

As a freshman, Brown befriended sophomore Megan McCullough, the girl who later handled the kicking duties for the football team.

She was embraced by the McCullough family. If Brown needed a ride to practice or a game, needed advice, needed a mentor, she called Megan's mother, Jeanie McCullough. She ate dinner with the McCulloughs. She spent nights with the McCulloughs.

"She became part of the family," Jeanie McCullough said. "It's like her and Megan are almost sisters," a relationship that continued to grow after Megan graduated and went off to Mount St. Joseph College.

Brown called Jeanie McCullough her "mom away from home."

For the last four years, Brown has balanced academics, athletics and responsibilities at home. She has helped care for her mother, developed into her team's best player and raised her grade point average to 2.9.

"She's a great story," said Scott Dalton, the third basketball coach Brown had during her four years. "She worked hard. You can't help but root for her."

Jeanie McCullough called watching Brown sign her letter of intent "one of the happiest days of my life."

For Brown, that day probably came on Senior Night. For the first time during her high school career, when she searched the stands for her mother, she wasn't disappointed.

Her mother was there.

"Seeing Mom," Brown said wiping away a tear with her sleeve, "that meant a lot."

Jeanie McCullough believes Brown hasn't reached her potential.

"She's a great kid who has fought through adversity," she said. "She's a fighter. She should be a role model for the girls coming up in the future.

"It's nice to see her go to the next level and create opportunities."
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Friday, May 30th 2008 at 3:25PM
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