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Men's Basketball Feature: Culmination of a journey nears for Brown, Archie

The Eagles play their final two home games of the season this week

Kamari Brown had just finished his sophomore season at Panola Junior College, and a highlight tape he had helped create was making the rounds on social media.

Kaden Archie had gone home to Dallas after the UTEP campus closed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Miners’ season had ended after an 86-78 loss to Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament.

It was the spring of 2020, the world was in a holding pattern dealing with the virus and the duo was looking for a new home to continue their college basketball careers. That was when Brian Burg, the freshly-minted men’s basketball coach at Georgia Southern, reached out. Announced as the Eagles’ coach March 29, he and his staff had a whopping nine roster spots to fill.

The recruiting process during that period was unlike anything coaches or players had experienced. No home visits for coaches, no campus visits for recruits and no live games to watch. It was all done online.

“It was way different with everything being shut down and no chance to go out and visit the schools that were interested,” Archie recalls. “Everything online, everything on the phone - Facetime and Zooms. I remember Coach Burg facetiming me and walking around campus and showing me different things. That's how I got to see Statesboro before I came.”

“It was a bunch of Zooms, and then I went online, did my homework,” says Brown. “I saw it was a beautiful campus and looked at everything that I was looking at pursuing here and then made that decision based off my faith that this was a good fit for me.”

Kaden Archie. Photo courtesy of Georgia Southern University

After they committed, it was time to find out about their teammates. In normal circumstances, they may have already met each other during a recruiting visit or would orchestrate a weekend visit to campus to spend some time together. Those trips were not in the cards this year.

“They made a group chat and had all the players in there,” recalls Brown. “I didn't know anybody that well so I would chime in here and there, make jokes and stuff like that. I tried to get to know my teammates and where they were from and their backgrounds all through social media.”

“I remember early on we had the group chat going and we would just talk and communicate and figure out where guys are from and what they are like and build that relationship,” says Archie. “I remember looking up the roster and finding guys on Instagram and following them.”

When July rolled around, it was time to head to Statesboro. Archie drove 14 hours from Dallas by himself, and his parents left a day later with all his stuff. Burg had tried to recruit Archie to Texas Tech so they had met before, but Archie threw a wrinkle into the reunion with a new hairstyle.

“The first people who greeted me was the coaching staff, and a lot of them didn't recognize me right away because at the time I had super long locks and I cut them before I came here,” Archie remembers with a grin. “So they were giving me this weird look when I walked through the door like, 'Who's this guy?,' and then they were like, 'Oh, he cut his hair!’"

Brown’s entrance into Hanner Fieldhouse was the first time he met Burg and the coaching staff in person.

“The first time I met them face-to-face was when I got here,” said Brown. “I came packed and ready. My mom and my uncle drove me up here, and that's when I met Coach Burg and the other coaches.”

Archie and Brown will play their final two home games in Hanner Fieldhouse this week as the Eagles played host to Coastal Carolina Wednesday and Appalachian State Friday. They, along with Andrei Savrasov, who still has another year of eligibility left, are the three remaining Eagles from that first group of nine that Burg and the coaching staff brought to campus. The trio will be recognized along with transfers Carlos Curry, Jalen Finch and Tai Strickland on Senior Night, prior to Friday’s game against the Mountaineers.

COVID has made the last three years a bit of a bumpy ride with stops and starts, games without fans, schedule changes and canceled contests. Amidst a ton of unknowns and in likely the most stressful time in their lives, they took a chance on Burg, his coaching staff and Georgia Southern and have arrived on the other side with zero regrets.

Kamari Brown. Photo courtesy of Georgia Southern University

“I’ve become a better me, a better version of myself,” says Brown. “Working close with God to become a better human being and also encouraging everybody to be a better version of themselves. Everybody can make themselves better, but bringing somebody along with you in that journey, that can be tough to do sometimes, and that's what I've accomplished here.”

This is the time of year in college basketball where student-athletes in their final year of eligibility seem to excel. They see the light at the end of the tunnel, understand their time in college basketball is waning, let go and play with freedom.

"At this point, I know what my game is, I know what I'm capable of doing so I'm just going to go out there and have fun and try to win,” says Archie.”

“I definitely have that feeling because I don't want to have any regrets,” says Brown. “Just go out there and play as best I can. You don't get these chances to make memories back.”

Brown and Archie will attempt to continue their basketball careers professionally whenever their college careers are done. As they have navigated the last three years, their hope is that Eagle Nation remembers them fondly more for who they are rather than what they can do with a basketball.

"I want them to say that Kaden was a great dude,” says Archie. “He treated everybody with respect, and he was a great person before he was a good basketball player."

"I hope people remember my character and how I carry myself,” said Brown. “I feel like that's way more important than anything I can do on a basketball court. Everybody likes the highlight dunks, but just knowing my character, my heart and who I am."