When Jyaire Brown tweeted on May 22 that he would not be returning to Warren Easton High School in New Orleans to finish out his high school career, it didn’t take long at all for a message to be sent from one future Buckeye to another.
Tegra Tshabola, who on April 23 committed to Ohio State 24 hours after Brown had done the same, saw Brown’s tweet and messaged him on Instagram. The two had talked a bit here and there after Tshabola committed, so the two became acquainted since they were the Buckeyes’ first two members of their 2022 class.
This upcoming fall, I will not be returning to Warren Easton. With that being said I would like to thank everyone who has ever invested time in me over at #3019!— Jyaire Hollywood Brown (@jyairebrown13) May 22, 2020
They both knew they were going to be future teammates at Ohio State, but they never pictured being future teammates at the high school level. That changed in late May, as the wheels began churning for Brown’s eventual decision to transfer to Lakota West High School in the Cincinnati suburbs, as Brown decided he was coming home two years earlier than he previously planned.
Ever since Tshabola reached out through Instagram to try and get him to come to Lakota West, the pair have started forming a friendship that should help the two of them down the line in college.
“We hang out just about every day after workouts,” Tshabola said. “We played basketball with some of my friends when he first got here and went to the pool and stuff like that. We’re building a really strong relationship. We can definitely see us being really close friends.”
Added Brown: “It’s just gonna be easier for us because we already have that chemistry, going into Ohio State already knowing each other instead of me being in New Orleans and him being in Ohio. We’re gonna actually build a friendship, get to know each other and meet each other’s parents and stuff like that.”
Brown had initially thought a transfer to IMG Academy was an option. A transfer to the Florida football factory would have united him with fellow Buckeye commit Tunmise Adeleye on defense.
“I talked to one of the coaches, but he said he needed to know my decision soon because he only had one spot available so he needed to know my decision too,” Brown told Eleven Warriors. “I was gonna be able to go over to IMG and start, actually. But I just didn’t wanna be rushed into a decision like that.”
Sounds a bit similar to when a college elects to be patient and not push a player for a commitment and that becomes a successful approach.
That was the case with Brown, as strong family connections to Lakota West wound up being the Firebirds’ foot in the door to land a player who instantly became Ohio’s No. 3-ranked rising junior (behind Tshabola at No. 2).
Tom Bolden, who is heading into his second season as Lakota West’s head coach, was the successor to Kerry Coombs at Colerain High School, moving up from assistant to head coach, where he guided Colerain to a 142-21 record and one state runner-up finish in his 12-year run.
That long stint included coaching Brown’s older brother, Lonnell Brown Jr., a former first-team All-Greater Miami Conference player and team MVP for Colerain under Bolden’s tutelage. So Bolden got linked up with the younger Brown, as he was set to visit family in Cincinnati, and the two hit it off.
“I went on a visit to see the school, talked to Coach Bolden about it, and it went from there,” Brown said. “It was basically up to me. I talked to my dad. Him and Coach Bolden talked as well, and (my dad) put it in my hands.”
Brown also linked up with Lakota West’s defensive coordinator, Carlton Gray, who was a three-year starting cornerback himself at Cincinnati's Forest Park High School in the ‘80s.
Gray became a four-year starter and co-captain at UCLA. From 1989-1992, Gray recorded 16 career interceptions for the Bruins – including a nationwide-best 11 picks in 1991 – and still ranks second on the program’s all-time interceptions list, and he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2004. He then became a second-round NFL draft selection and played a combined 98 games for the Seahawks, Colts, Giants and Chiefs, recording 12 interceptions and 63 passes defended in a seven-year career.
Brown believes Gray is the proper man to help him learn and grow on the field. At Warren Easton, Brown played almost exclusively man, and he says that’s where he thrives. Playing zone coverage is where he struggles more, and Lakota West is a zone-heavy team. With Coombs expected to mix man and zone coverages as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, Brown honing both skills under Gray could go a long way in preparing him to compete for early playing time in Columbus.
“Being around him is gonna open my mind,” Brown said of Gray. “I’m gonna pick his brain and get his help so it’ll help get me ready for that next level. I’m gonna learn different coverages. At my old school, we played a lot of man. My coach didn’t wanna play zone so we manned up a lot of the time. Going to Lakota West, it’s gonna be a lot more zone coverages so that’s gonna help me a lot to learn and thrive.”
Of course, Brown is already pretty far along in his development as a defensive back, and even though Tshabola is an offensive lineman, he still sees a lot to like about Brown’s game.
“His footwork is really, really good. It’s like he’s walking on air,” Tshabola said. “He likes to get up on receivers and get physical so he’s really aggressive on the line. He’s used to playing man coverage. He doesn’t really like to play the zone that much. He likes man coverage. He can tackle and can do all things. He’s really fast, too.”
On the flip side, Brown might not be a mammoth offensive tackle, but he respects one when he sees one. When asked what he sees from Tshabola in the limited time they’ve worked out together and the film he’s seen, Brown responded, “Sheer dominance.”
“He’s a big guy,” Brown added. “I think he’s gonna be a really good and dominant force, especially on the O-line.”
And though they might be playing opposite sides of the ball, Brown and Tshabola form a terrific one-two tandem for the Firebirds, who are synced up on how high the ceiling is for their team.
“We're really excited. We’ve already got it in our head that we’re gonna win a state championship,” Brown said. “Me coming from Warren Easton, we won a state championship my freshman year and sophomore year. So we have those same aspirations of going to a state championship and winning. We’ve just gotta come together and build that team chemistry.”
Added Tshabola: “I think we can accomplish anything together, including a state championship. We’ve had even more people than Jyaire join our team, people coming from all over the state and out of state. We have a chance to be really, really good this year. Me and Jyaire, we’re just trying to build our relationship until it’s time to go in 2022.”