Cal Poly

Mustangs’ sophomore point guard leaves program

Sophomore point guard Justin Brown is no longer with the Cal Poly men’s basketball team and said Wednesday that he is evaluating his options while he finishes up classes at the university this quarter.

Brown, who said he and Mustangs head coach Joe Callero came to the mutual decision that it was in both parties’ best interest to part ways, has scholarship offers from other four-year schools but has not cemented his decision to transfer.

“I have no hard feelings or anything like that,” Brown said. “What happens happens. Everything happens for a reason. It just wasn’t in God’s plan for me to end up here.

“I love the school. I love the people, I love the sports program. It just didn’t work out.”

Brown, a 5-foot-11 point guard from Vallejo, was recruited by former Cal Poly coach Kevin Bromley. Bromley was fired after the 2008-09 season, Brown’s freshman year.

In his sophomore season under Callero, Brown averaged 4.9 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in 17.1 minutes per game. He began the year as the starter, but by the end of season, his playing time took a severe dip.

Brown did not play in nine of the final 10 games, a coach’s decision that coincided with senior shooting guard Lorenzo Keeler’s move to the point and senior Charles Anderson being inserted at shooting guard. Kyle Odister, an All-Big West freshman and another Bromley recruit, was the backup at both positions.

With Odister returning, junior college transfer Amaurys Fermin coming off a redshirt year and Texas prep signee Jamal Johnson arriving next season, Brown’s chances at playing time would have been limited.

“He’s an outstanding kid,” Callero said. “The most important comment that I make is Justin is not leaving for any academic shortcomings or social issues that came up.

“It was pretty clear on both sides. If he wanted more opportunity to play basketball, it was best for him outside of our program.”

That does not mean Brown will leave Cal Poly.

He said he has scholarship offers from Division II schools Montana State-Billings and Adams State in Colorado and is receiving calls from others.

But Brown, who was also a standout baseball player at Salesian High in Richmond, said he would consider remaining a Mustang if he had the chance to join the Cal Poly baseball team.

He has yet to contact Mustangs head baseball coach Larry Lee, but Brown did play on a youth travel team with Cal Poly pitcher Steven Fischback as a teen.

In his senior year in center field at Salesian in 2008, Brown batted .392 with 15 runs, seven RBI and eight steals in nine attempts.

He’d consider walking on to the baseball team.

“I’d probably rather have school paid for because it’s not coming out of my pocket and all that,” Brown said, “but I haven’t decided yet, and baseball is still a possibility.”

Brown’s departure from the basketball team gives Callero some room to maneuver in what’s left of this recruiting season.

Cal Poly has yet to sign a player during the regular period, which began April 14 and ends May 19. With the two early-period signees — Johnson and San Diego area high senior Maliik Love — both being guards, the Mustangs are looking for one or two forwards to complete the 2010 class.

Cal Poly was reported to be in the running for 6-6 junior college transfer Mamadou Seck before his verbal commitment to Southern Illinois this week.

“We’re not going to sign someone just to sign someone,” Callero said, “and we’re not going to say we have to have somebody at this position. We don’t have to have that, and we’re in a pretty good position right now looking down the road.”

The Mustangs have 13 returners for the upcoming season, during which they will host Sweet 16 participant St. Mary’s and travel to play both UCLA and Cal.

Cal Poly is coming off a season in which it went 12-19 overall and finished sixth in the Big West with a 7-9 conference record. A year after the Mustangs were left out of the Big West Tournament, they won a first-round game and were ousted in the quarterfinals by Long Beach State.