WES’s WISDOM: Hilton Head homecoming has turned into something magical

In 2002, Chane Brown and Hilton Head High’s basketball squad embarked on a magical run to South Carolina’s elite eight. Now, 19 years later, Brown has brought the magic back. In just his second year as head coach of his alma mater, Brown has guided his Seahawks to the precipice of an unthinkable state championship. 

They’ve defied the odds all season, and now Hilton Head’s boys will make the drive up to the campus of USC Aiken for a Class 4A state title bout with South Pointe for the chance to complete a legendary championship season. 

The future Seahawk coach first made his name on the island a couple of decades ago, producing for Greg Elliott’s Hilton Head squads in the early 2000s. Back then there was no May River High School or even Bluffton High School, the latter of the two established in 2004. 

Brown thrived as a hard-working power forward who competed at his highest level every night, helping his side reach the then-farthest run by a Seahawk squad — all the way to the Lower State semifinals. In the 2002 region-clinching victory against Beaufort High, Brown scored a pair of massive buckets to seal the crown for Elliott’s group. 

After graduating from Hilton Head High, Brown attended the University of South Carolina and served as a graduate women’s basketball manager under the legendary Dawn Staley, who transformed a mediocre program into a national powerhouse. Success always seems to breed success, and the coaching Brown observed from one of the greatest minds in the history of women’s basketball proved to be instrumental on the way to starting his own career. 

“From playing in high school to being a student manager at USC to being an assistant and then head middle school coach, a lot of people have helped me and supported me throughout this whole process,” Brown said. “I got to be a fly on the wall in watching Staley build that program. She couldn’t accept losing. Just being around those people helped form me into who I am, and I just took pieces from each one to help me get to where I am today.” 

After teaching and coaching in Richland County, Brown made his way back home to where it all started: Hilton Head Island High School. He started as a junior varsity coach and varsity assistant before earning the top job in 2019. 

HHIHS coach Chane Brown / Photo by Justin Jarrett

The Seahawk alum instilled a strong defensive mindset from the jump, propelling a squad that went just 6-19 a year before to a strong second-place finish in Region 7-4A. It all started on the defensive side of the floor, packing the paint to force opponents to score under heavy pressure at the rim or settle for deeper jump shots, all while forcing a flurry of turnovers leading to easy fast breaks on the other end. The formula brought his Seahawks just a win away from a region title. 

“When you start a season, especially your first season, there’s a period where everything’s gonna seem like it’s not working,” Brown said. “It’s about getting the kids to buy in and realizing that the biggest thing is to be in shape when we reach region play.” 

After laying down the foundation and turning around the program in just one season, Brown set his sights even higher in year two. With a tremendous defensive framework in place, an up-and-coming guard duo, and an unbeatable post player, it seemed like the ‘Hawks were one key piece away from really putting together something special. All of a sudden, as the summer winded down, they found it.

Just like his coach, it was also a homecoming for Will McCracken. After developing his game and boosting his recruiting stock over at Archbishop Moeller in Ohio, the new UNCW commit brought his electric shot, defense, and dunking ability back to the Lowcountry, scorching the local competition and elevating his squad to unseen heights. 

“He came in and made everyone better,” Brown said. “He helped coach the kids, he’s like a coach on the floor. I knew we were going to have a special group coming in this year, we had a talented JV team, so I thought this year was going to be special, but Will really elevated our game.” 

And transitioning to a new team and style of play — and coach — helped McCracken take his own game to new heights.

“Coach Brown has taught me a lot,” McCracken said. “He’s shown me how I can help teammates and has given me insight on how to be a coach-player.” 

HHIHS senior Will McCracken / Photo by Justin Jarrett

After a spotty 2-2 start in December with two losses to Georgia power Richmond Hill, McCracken, Brown and the Seahawks turned it up to another level, running the table through a difficult region on their way to an incredible regular season and Region 7-4A tournament championship. 

They had their share of adversity on the way, but the ‘Hawks always found a way no matter the hurdle. In a nail-biting first round of the playoffs against a scrappy North Myrtle Beach side, the head coaching phenom and star player dug in and used a dialed-in defensive effort to close out the Chiefs. 

After surrendering a late 3-pointer to go into the half down a point to Myrtle Beach, Brown adjusted magnificently, leading to another standout second-half performance to propel his side to a first-ever Lower State final. 

And then on Monday night, the second-year coach delivered his most impressive job yet, drawing up a game plan that allowed the Seahawks to hold down four-star Xavier commit Cesare Edwards in a decisive 13-point win over Hartsville. In just two years, Brown took what was a struggling program to an unbelievable dream season. 

“It’s a process,” Brown said. “You have to take your lumps early, and I think that’s what we did when we played those two Richmond Hill games. I saw a lot of holes in our defense, and that’s what we worked on. It’s gotten to a point now where we feel comfortable that we can do more things defensively, and it just keeps getting better as we go on.”

He’s come full circle, and he’s now just one win away from etching his name along with McCracken and company into the book of Lowcountry legends. But one test remains on Saturday: a battle against Upper State champion South Pointe. 

The Stallions will provide Brown’s Seahawks with their toughest test yet with a relentless pressuring defense feasting on the opponents’ every mistake. 

If the Hilton Head Island alum and his standout squad can control the glass, play smart basketball, and continue to bring an unbeatable defensive effort, the Seahawks will have every shot to cap off a Lowcountry hoops season for the ages and bring home a program-defining state championship. 

By Wes Kerr

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