LaQuay Brown knew what he wanted to be from a young age.

When he was 8, his mother Shurlana Stewart took him to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.

Brown watched Shamu the killer whale perform.

"I saw Shamu jump out of the water," Brown said. "I told my mom, 'I want to work with Shamu. I want to be in the tank with the whale and the dolphins,' " Brown said. "I want to study marine biology in college. I'm looking forward to working with ocean life."

Brown, 18, applies that same determination to sport. He is a football and basketball standout for St. Joseph High School in Hammonton. The 6-foot-4 forward averages 11.5 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. He scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a win over Cedar Creek on Monday.

Brown helped the Wildcats (15-6) finish second in the Cape-Atlantic League's United Division and earn their first-ever berth in the CAL tournament. The sixth-seeded Wildcats will play at third-seeded Atlantic City in a quarterfinal game Monday at 7 p.m.

But for all his basketball success, football is Brown's passion. He grew up in Atlantic City and started playing football for the Atlantic City Dolphins of the Atlantic County Junior Football League. A tight end and defensive end, he helped the Wildcats win four straight state titles. Brown caught eight passes for 158 yards and a touchdown last fall. On defense, he made 35 tackles, 11 of them for losses. He also contributed 3 sacks and recovered a fumble. Brown hopes to play football at Coastal Carolina, a Football Championship Subdivision school in Conway, S.C.

Brown lives in Mays Landing with his mother. In a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, he spoke about a number of topics, including his relationship with his mother and the broken hand he suffered during a St. Joe pep rally last winter.

On what he likes about football: Football is my favorite because it's like the game of life. It teaches me to face adversity and how to be strong mentally. It's fun and lets me express my feelings on the field.

On the St. Joe basketball team making the CAL tournament for the first time: We're excited. We knew coming into the season we were going to have a good team. But we knew coming into the season we would have to give a lot of effort because a lot of teams have more size than us. We wanted to let people know that St. Joe is not only a football school but is also a basketball school. We wanted to grab attention so up-and-coming prospects would want to come here.

On what it's like to attend St. Joe: It's a family. You have brothers. You have sisters. You feel comfortable there, and that's with sports and in the classroom. I thought I wouldn't know anybody coming to St. Joe. But the first day, I got along with everyone. It's a great feeling.

On his relationship with his mother: My mom is the backbone. She taught me how to be a man. She's a single parent. She has to take the role of a mother and a father. She's very strong. She takes care of me and my cousins. She's that woman.

On breaking his hand during a pep rally at school last winter: This is another embarrassing story. We were playing tug o' war. I wasn't paying attention. The teacher said, 'Go!' and something like a thousand kids pulled the rope. It squeezed my hand and crushed every bone in my (left) hand. Competition is crazy at St. Joe. Everything is a championship here.

Contact Michael McGarry: