Brown Making the Most of Opportunities On and Off the Court
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Some student-athletes step onto their college campus with a plan to earn a degree and begin a successful career following graduation. However, no matter how much you plan for the future there is always a chance to switch gears and follow a new path.
This was the case for Kansas women’s basketball senior-to-be Jada Brown. She packed her bags nearly three years ago and moved from Las Vegas to Lawrence with two things on her mind: playing basketball and majoring in pre-dentistry. Now heading in to her final season with the Jayhawks, Brown has made the most of her opportunities on and off the court, even though that meant a change in majors and a different career path than she originally planned for.
“I came to Kansas wanting to study pre-dentistry, but reality hit when I took my first biology lab,” said Brown. “After my first summer at Kansas, I reevaluated what I am good at and what I like. I like to write and I’ve been around sports my whole life, so someone suggested journalism. I fell in love with it.”
Heading into her sophomore campaign, Brown had new focus off the court, while solidifying her starting role on the court. It was that offseason that Brown met her first mentor and opportunities began knocking at her door.
ESPN’s Holly Rowe came into town for a three-day media training seminar with many of the Kansas sports programs. Rowe’s message on how to become a better interview and present yourself on social media struck a chord with Brown, who had just decided to switch to majors.
Now with a broadcast journalism state of mind, Brown learned the importance of taking steps while still in school to prepare for life after college. Knowing that one day she will hang up her jersey for the last time, Brown wanted to be prepared for life after sports.
Rowe ignited the passion for journalism in Brown and sparked her will to begin her career while still earning her degree and playing the sport she loves. However, Rowe hasn’t been the only mentor for Brown over the last two years. KU alumnae and FOX Sports reporter Laura Okmin has also opened doors for Brown, like she does for many young women aspiring to become broadcast journalist.
“I first met Laura a few semesters ago in one of my journalism classes,” Brown said. “She came to talk to our class and I was the only one talking because I’m interested in her field of work. I talked to her after class and she told me about her boot camp that summer. I went to that boot camp last summer and it was a great experience.”
Following the first boot camp, Brown stayed in contact with Okmin. Brown would get emails from time to time with opportunities for other boot camps, but her main priorities of basketball and school conflicted until this past June when Brown jumped on the chance to attend a two-day media boot camp at the Minnesota Vikings training camp.
Like most educational experiences, the first part of her trip consisted of research. Brown spent nearly 10 hours in a hotel conference room learning as much as possible about the organization, its staff and players.
“We researched the organization as a whole, the players we would be interviewing and the coach,” Brown said. “After that it was knowing more than what you were given because you never know what will be thrown your way.”
On day two of the media boot camp the fun work began. Brown and her fellow attendees were able to get in front of the camera and practice interviewing while also learning about production and other behind-the-scenes jobs.
“We got to watch practice for about 30 minutes and after practice we got to start interviewing the head coach, Mike Zimmer, and the players. Adrian Peterson wasn’t on the list, but he’s really good friends with Laura, so he came over and gave us all one question.”
While interviewing the seven-time pro-bowler was a once in a lifetime opportunity, it proved that the extra research was important. The 10-hour prep the day before allowed Brown to be ready to ask Peterson one question. Along with Peterson, Brown got the chance to interview Terrance Newman, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and several members of the Vikings’ front office.
Looking back, Brown can’t help but smile at and be grateful for all that Kansas has provided her.
“I am so appreciative of all the opportunities that have been given to me,” Brown said. “Kansas is not just my basketball career, it’s my education and the networking that I have access to. You aren’t going to get that anywhere else. Laura is a graduate of KU, so that’s why she came to speak to my class. I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities on or off the court had I been at another university. It’s an unreal feeling to be able to work with Laura and Holly because I look up to them so much. They are successful in the industry and willing to help me start my career. I am very lucky to have those connections.”
Her experiences with Okmin and Rowe have led to even more opportunities on KU’s campus. Brown has worked with both women’s basketball and football as a reporter, other valuable outlets to hone in on her reporting skills early on.
“All the opportunities are great, but right now my main focus is still on basketball and my senior season,” said Brown. “But when these opportunities come up I want to take them. I will probably do another one of Laura’s camps and try to branch out to feature stories instead of just player interviews.”
Basketball is still her main focus and priority heading into the 2016-17 season, but it won’t be long until you see Brown reporting on your television screen.
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