The National Basketball Association is a long way from Buffalo's East Side, but it is a road Damone Brown has gladly traveled in an effort to achieve his lifelong dream.
That dream became a reality Wednesday night when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted the former Syracuse University and Seneca Vocational High School star in the second round of the NBA draft.
Brown becomes the first Western New York-area player to be drafted since Angola's Christian Laettner (Nichols School) was the third overall pick, by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1992.
As the 37th overall selection, Brown becomes the highest-drafted player from the Buffalo Public Schools since the Portland Trail Blazers chose Riverside's Cliff Robinson as the 36th pick in 1989.
"Oh man, what an incredible feeling," an emotional Brown said by phone Wednesday from Manhattan, where he was joined by family and close friends in a private celebration.
"It's hard to put into words what I am feeling right now," added Brown, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today. "Just to have this opportunity is the answer to a dream."
When Brown's name flashed on the television screen, the reaction of his family was one of pure emotion.
"Everybody was just jumping up and down, screaming with tears in our eyes," said Stan Martin, Seneca's volunteer assistant coach who took Brown under his wing when Brown was 13 years old. "Damone was just overwhelmed. This is something he's worked his entire life for. We're all so proud of him."
Brown was projected to go somewhere between the late first and mid-second round of the draft. He was coming off a solid senior season at Syracuse, averaging 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
But his stock rose sharply after good showings at the Nike Desert Classic in Phoenix and the NBA's annual predraft camp in Chicago.
The 76ers were one of several teams Brown worked out for over the past several weeks, but Philadelphia gave him little indication he would be its selection.
Brown is glad to be joining one of the NBA's elite teams. The Sixers won the Eastern Conference championship before losing the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the NBA Finals.
"It's very exciting to have a chance to play for a great team like the Sixers," Brown said. "I'm just going to go there, work hard and do whatever I can do to help the team."
At 6-foot-8 1/2 and 202 pounds, Brown needs to get bigger and stronger to have a chance to play in the NBA. But there is little doubt about his athletic ability.
As a second-round pick, Brown will not get a guaranteed contract. But he has a legitimate chance to earn a roster spot.
With the penetrating ability of superstar guard Allen Iverson, the Sixers need wing players who can catch and shoot. Brown has developed an accurate mid-range jump shot, and can also put the ball on the floor.
"Having a chance to play with Iverson is something I'm looking forward to," Brown said. "He's one of the best players in the game and he makes his teammates better. Hopefully, I can come in and compliment him and the rest of the team."
Brown will likely play small forward in Philadelphia, where he would compete with George Lynch, Jumaine Jones, Rodney Buford and Raja Bell for playing time.
None of them are scorers, however. Brown's ability to score inside and on the perimeter, in addition to being able to play either forward spot, could work in his favor.
"Wherever they want to put me, it doesn't matter," Brown said. "I just want to fit in. I'm going to learn from one of the great coaches in the game in Larry Brown, so I'll come in ready to work."