There’s really only one word that comes to mind when Andre Brown thinks about playing his last volleyball game as a Humber Hawk: bittersweet.
Brown will wear his Hawks jersey for the last time at the 2014 National Championships, as he will graduate this upcoming spring.
Brown spent five seasons with the Hawks, proving to be a fixture in the Humber community since Day One. Head Coach Wayne Wilkins watched Brown develop and mature since his arrival as a rookie in 2009.
Brown’s time as a Hawk was described by Wilkins, as one of incredible growth for the athlete, both on and off the court.
“He’s grown up a ton,” said Wilkins. “He came here as a high-school student, and his first couple years was as much learning about volleyball as it was about life.”
Wilkins couldn’t be more proud to have been part of Brown’s journey, a trek characterized by passion and tenacity to win.
“I really admire his passion for the game, his passion on the court,” said Wilkins.
“He’s full of life, he loves every moment he gets a chance to play ball and we’ve been blessed o have been able to have him on the court for five years.”
It’s with a heavy heart that not only Brown’s teammates and coaches say goodbye, but also long-time manager of Humber Athletics and president of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association, Jim Bialek.
Bialek, who’s in his 32nd year with the OCAA, has seen it all when it comes to talented athletes. But for Bialek, Brown has been one of the best he’s ever seen.
“We’re losing a middle, which is, arguably, one of the top middles in the country, over the past, I’d say comfortably, last three years,” he said.
The six-foot-nine volleyball player, nicknamed “Big Dre”, tops the charts with the most blocks — 63 — in the west conference of the OCAA. Brown brings a presence to the net unmatched by any other player.
“He’s an absolute force at the net. Imagine the opposition has to look at the guy across the net, who’s six foot nine, he jumps well, he’s athletic… it’s pretty intimidating,” said Wilkins. “That presence just brings us so much. It’s a big void to fill”
It’s not only been Brown’s physical size, but also his figurative size in leadership and emotion, that has proven to be an unprecedented force in setting the momentum for the Hawks.
“When Andre blocks, or puts that ball away, that block or that kill, brings 10 times the emotional lift to the team on the volleyball court, than anyone else making a point,” said Bialek. “He has an emotional ability, who has the power to change games with emotion, and he’s done that.”
Humber Hawks hitter Terrel Bramwell says he’ll be sad to see Big Dre go, but is looking forward to what the future holds for his longtime friend and teammate.
“It’s sad to not have him at Humber anymore, but he’s moving on to training with the team Canada,” said Bramwell. “I’m happy for him.”
Sadness and appreciation is certainly felt among Brown’s Humber family.
“He’s going to be missed on all aspects. Here’s a guy who’s been here for five years, he knows what it takes to win, he’s won, he’s been an impact, he’s just been a star every year.” said Bialek.
Brown has played an integral role in bringing multiple national championships home to Humber. He says his time as a Hawk is but a chapter, in the book of his volleyball career. Brown will be looking to overseas to fill his next chapter.
“I’ll be training full time this year with the national team, then after that look to go overseas and play pro in Europe,” said Brown.
“You know, it’s bittersweet, but it’s good, to move on to bigger and better things, but at the same time, it’s sad, I’ve been with these guys for a while,” said Brown. “Humber will always be a part of me, and a part of who I am, whether I’m here or not.”
The consensus among those who know Brown is that he is too young, too talented, and too driven to simply stop here, following his graduation.
So does Brown have what it to takes his skill to the next level? According to Wilkins, absolutely.
“Anything he puts his mind to, I know he can do,” he said.
“He’ll be an asset to any team,” said Wilkins. “The only thing that’s going to stop Andre Brown is Andre Brown.”