Originally created 06/29/01

Relatives celebrate first draft selection



BRUNSWICK, Ga. - TV announcer Ernie Johnson opened the NBA draft show last night in New York with the announcement, "It's a big night in the big city."

It was also a big night in a rambling house on Fourth Street in Brunswick, where four dozen relatives and friends of Kwame Brown erupted when the Washington Wizards made him the first high school player ever picked first in the draft.

Every time the TV screen showed Mr. Brown in the half-hour before the draft began, the crowd shouted his name.

"Kwame looks good. Like a million dollars," his cousin Sissy Bell said.

Marsha Muse sat with her hands folded as if in prayer as a clock on the screen counted down the seconds.

The wait had been too much for Mr. Brown's aunt, Altamese Allen.

"I've got to get out of here," she said as she walked past the big-screen TV in the living room of her sister, Joangela Buggs. "I can't handle this. Oh my God."

As her nephew's name was announced seconds later, she ran back into the room where a score of adults leaped to their feet and began screaming and jumping up and down.

Ms. Allen fell to the floor, and Sissy Bell fell on her. They rolled together as the joyful shouting went on around them.

The family hugged, kissed and exchanged high fives until the TV cameras settled on Mr. Brown seated beside his mother, Joyce Brown.

Calm fell over the room, and Cheryl Davis, who had been laughing uproariously, wept silently as her sister spoke.

"I was fine until I saw my sister sitting up there," she said later, her face still wet with tears.

"I had faith, God knows," Ms. Allen said.

Another woman said: "Thank you Jesus. Miss Joyce would say that."

The sisters, Ms. Allen, Ms. Buggs and Ms. Davis and their brother Charles Smith, all said they were happy for Joyce Brown, who had a hard time raising her eight children alone.

"It's a long, hard story," Ms. Allen said. "We helped her some, but she struggled. She struggled hard, but anything for her kids."

Most of the revelers, including many children, wore T-shirts with a black-and-white picture of Mr. Brown and the question "Where will Kwame Go?"

Having gotten the answer, Andre Mosely pulled his shirt off and handed it to a visitor.

There were plenty of basketball experts watching in the hot living room.

Joangela Buggs' husband came inside from the backyard grill, where chicken lay over smoking coals, and announced he thought the Chicago Bulls would end up with his nephew.

The family and friends all hooted at him just as they did former NBA star Charles Barkley when he had said, "I don't think any of these guys know where they're going."

With Mr. Brown's future secure, his family and friends settled down to some serious partying with grilled chicken, steak and pork, and baked beans, potato salad and desserts.

"We're going to be here a long time," Ms. Allen said.