When the college basketball season was cut short last spring, Chaundee Brown found himself at a crossroads.
Knowing he didn’t want to remain at Wake Forest, where coach Danny Manning would soon be fired, he entered both the transfer portal and the NBA Draft pool. With one remaining season of NCAA eligibility, the move allowed him to gather feedback from NBA executives while also exploring his next college destination.
When Michigan became involved with Brown’s recruitment, he caught up with a friend from his native Sunshine State: Colin Castleton, who played for the Wolverines from 2018-2020 before transferring to Florida.
“(Castleton) had nothing bad to say about Michigan,” Brown said during a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “A kid transferring, I know that’s hard but he said he really enjoyed it, it just wasn’t for him and his spot, but he couldn’t say anything bad about it.”
Brown ultimately withdrew his name from the NBA Draft and committed to Michigan in mid-May, cementing his last stop on what he hopes is a road that leads to the NBA. A major domino fell in his favor on Friday when the NCAA approved Brown’s waiver for immediate eligibility.
And now, after gathering feedback from NBA front offices during the pre-draft process, Brown knows what he has to prove as a senior.
“Just showing that I can handle the ball really well,” Brown said. “I’ve been really practicing that before and after practice, handling the ball. (While) testing the NBA waters, they told me that’s something I need to work on. Coming off ball screens as well, making the right decision, making the right play, not forcing it.
“We have so much talent on the floor and on the team that I don’t have to force anything, so just making the right play and my decision-making, being smart. (On) defense, staying down, not going for pump fakes, things like that.”
At Wake Forest, Brown established himself as a bruising wing at his best while playing downhill. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, most of his highlights came around the rim, where he showed an ability to finish through contact.
This season, though, Brown wants to do more than that. With Zavier Simpson gone, the Wolverines will turn to new faces as primary ball-handlers. Guards Mike Smith, Eli Brooks and Zeb Jackson seem like natural fits for the role, but putting the ball in Brown’s hands at times could unlock new opportunities for an offense rooted in the pick-and-roll.
Beyond proving himself as a ball-handler and passer, Brown is driven to succeed from behind the arc. After posting a 32-percent clip on 3-pointers during his sophomore and junior seasons in Winston-Salem, shooting has been a focal point for Brown since arriving in Ann Arbor.
“I didn’t show it as much last year, but I feel like I’m a really good shooter,” Brown said. “And even the Wake Forest coaches, they knew I was a better shooter than what my percentage looked like. … I know I have to get in the gym more and work on my shot.”
Brown’s waiver gives the Wolverines much-needed roster clarity with the season merely a month away. If Brown can hold his own as a ball-handler, playing him at the ‘2’ would complement a wing tandem of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers well. Rounding out a potential starting five would be Brooks or Smith at point guard and Hunter Dickinson or Austin Davis at center.
Gathering offseason NBA feedback gave Brown a glimpse of what’s at stake for his own future this season. But for now, one goal trumps all.
“My big goal is to win a Big Ten championship (and) national championship — that’s everyone’s goal,” Brown said. “I feel like individual goals, I really put that to the side. I do anything to help the team out right now.”