Hoops an every-day venture for Haddon Heights' Brownlee

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Haddon Heights guard Lucian Brownlee handles the ball in a defensive drill during preseason practice. (Matthew Hall/Staff Photographer)

There's no secret to Lucian Brownlee's success.

The Haddon Heights senior is one of South Jersey's best basketball players for one simple reason: his work ethic.

"The day feels weird if I didn't get some work in," Brownlee said the other night, after Haddon Heights opened practice for the 2014-15 season.

Brownlee wasn't talking about a day in the fall, when most winter-sport athletes begin ramping up their preparation for the season. He was talking about any day, at any time of the year.

"I have to be doing something every day," Brownlee said. "That's how you get better."

Brownlee, a shooting guard, projects as the leader of a Haddon Heights team that could challenge for both the Colonial Conference Patriot Division and South Jersey Group 1 titles this season.

Brownlee averaged 15.8 points as a junior. He recently signed with Coppin State on a basketball scholarship.

"Every year, he's gotten better and better," Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci said. "He's worked to make himself a better player. He's always trying to improve."

Brownlee knows he has to assume a leadership role for the Garnets this season.

"I don't have to force myself to be a leader, but sometimes I have to force myself to be vocal," Brownlee said. "I believe the best way to lead is to lead by example. But I know there are times I'm going to have to speak up."

Brownlee said he chose Coppin State, in Baltimore, for a variety of reasons.

"It just felt right," Brownlee said. "I like the campus. I liked the area. The coaches were nice. The atmosphere on campus was like a family environment."

Haddon Heights will enter the season off a strong performance in a fall league. The Garnets have moved down to the Patriot Division this season, meaning they will play traditional rival Haddonfield just once but will meet fellow Group 1 powers Paulsboro and Woodbury twice each.

"We've got a team that I think can go deep in the playoffs and challenge for the division title," Brownlee said.

Ricci said Brownlee's strong work ethic has a positive impact on the team.

"He's a gym rat," Ricci said. "He's a relentless worker. He's in the gym just about every day.

"He's very coachable, the kind of player that his teammates look up to. He's ready to have a good season as a senior."