Larry Brown, University of Memphis assistant coach, is an old-schooler, a Hall of Fame coach who prizes high-motor interior centers. A few years back, 6-foot-11 Memphis freshman center Jalen Duren would’ve been top-three material in the NBA draft, even if he is only 18.
But in this new era, in which centers are expected to shoot 3-pointers, Duren is considered merely a mid-to-late lottery pick — one who could be there at No. 11 when the Knicks come to bat June 23.
Duren is one of 11 prospects so far invited to the “green room’’ at Barclays Center for the draft.
“He’s got a great body, a good athlete and is more skilled than you think,’’ an NBA college scout said. “He’s about a year away, but can come in and rebound now.’’
The Knicks have their share of defensive centers in Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims. But Robinson could flee as a free agent, Noel is forever an injury concern, and Sims was so lightly regarded that he went 58th in the draft.
Brown raved about his player, suggesting Duren could be another Bam Abedayo, the Miami All-Star, only taller.
Brown revealed he talked to Knicks general manager Scott Perry a few weeks ago about Duren and second-round candidate Josh Minott, the Memphis small forward who will be considered by the Knicks at 42. The Knicks worked out Minott on Monday.
Duren is the shiny gem because of his special upside — even if he is regarded as perhaps too much of a project for coach Tom Thibodeau to give approval.
“A lot of people compare him to Bam,’’ Brown told The Post from his home in East Hampton. “I spent time with Cal [Kentucky coach John Calipari] when Bam was there. Bam doesn’t shoot 3s either. Jalen is 3 inches taller than Bam.
“Jalen is like when I was a head coach when he had a center and power forward in the NBA. I always teased him: I wanted him to be like [rugged former Pistons center] Ben Wallace, because he can run with anybody. He really can run. And can move his feet defensively.’’
Brown is aggravated at the trend of dismissing centers who aren’t premier outside shooters like Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, who will be a top-three pick. Brown feels Duren does so many other things. He won’t turn 19 until November after reclassifying his senior year of high school to join Penny Hardaway’s Tigers.
“He can pass, too,’’ Brown said. “A lot of kids don’t see people who are open. He’s got a feel. If you’re open, he can find you. He’s a willing passer. His shot isn’t broken. The people question his 3-point shot. The kid is 6-11, 250 pounds and athletic. I don’t know how many 3’s you need.’’
Portland worked out Duren earlier this week. The Blazers are looking to trade back from No. 7, perhaps with Duren in mind.
“Jalen probably moves his feet better than any big kid I’ve been around,’’ added Brown, the Knicks’ coach in the 2005-06 season. “With so much switching in the NBA, he’s really capable of doing that. If he doesn’t play, he cheers for the team, doesn’t sulk.’’
The Knicks’ top priority, Brown realizes, is a point guard.
“You can’t have enough of them,” he said, adding, “I don’t know what the Knicks are thinking, but I always felt: Take the best player. If there’s two that are equal and you have a need, you take the need. There’s a lot of interesting good players. Hopefully, someone will be there at 11 the Knicks like.’’
Knicks lottery picks are under an intense spotlight to produce as rookies. Brown stresses patience with the defense-oriented Duren — who averaged 12 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
“If someone’s taking him to be starter on a playoff team, I don’t think it’s completely fair,’’ Brown said. “He’s 18. If you’re looking at a kid to develop and really be a factor, he’s the one you got to consider. Any 18, 19 year old kid they’re going to get may not help the team right away, but certainly he’ll have a chance to have a helluva career.
“He wants to be coached. That’s important, especially with Thibs. He’ll coach him and demand things, and he’ll respond to that.’
Perry also grilled Brown about Minott, the 6-9 wing who averaged just 6.2 points. Despite his jump-shooting woes, the 20-year-old is considered one of those positionless defenders that are all the rage.
“If you draft him, he’ll be like a lottery pick in two years,” Brown said. “He’s young, long, athletic quick. He’s just got to grow and get better. He grew 2 inches when I was there. He’s that high-twitch athlete. So many NBA people have called me about him. A couple of years, you might have a diamond.’’