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Jabari Brown Soldiers On

Oakland High's talented guard enters the maelstrom of elite amateur hoops.

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Of course, simply ignoring what happens online would be one option, but Jabari's mother points out that's harder in practice than in theory in the Internet age. "Kids have the world at their fingertips when we didn't," Fannie said. "Then you got people blowing up your text messages and if you didn't see it somebody else did, and it'll get back to you some way."Sitting on the family's living room couch, David Brown describes the effect the past year has had on his son. "He's much more cynical now than he has been in the past."

As the conversation turns to the message board gossip and rumor mill, Jabari appears to grow increasingly uninterested and uncomfortable. He checks his phone more often and glances at the virtual basketball game being played in the next room. His long sleeve T-shirt covers the tattoos on his arms and shoulders. But up close, sprawled on the big chair in his socks, he looks a couple years younger than he does on the basketball court.

The clicking of joysticks can be heard in the next room. Jabari fires off a quick text message then stands up, stretches, and turns toward the TV room. "Can we talk in here so I can play?" he asks. He pauses for a second, then pads over to the couch next to the television in the other room and sits down.

Before long, his critical final season of AAU ball will kick into high gear. The online recruiting rankings will update and the message board posters will continue to do their thing. But for now, sitting in his parents' den, Jabari Brown is just a normal teenage kid playing video games with his friends.