UW’s new point guard is familiar

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, November 19, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – The 3-point shot always made up for the flaws in Bryan Brown’s basketball makeup.

As a shooting guard for the Washington Huskies, he could get easily justify his less-than-full-speed work habits or the 230 pudgy pounds on his 6-foot-3 body with a swish from the perimeter, which he did over and over and over.

Forget the fact Brown labored late in games to get up and down the floor because of his conditioning. Shooting was his game.

“He fought a lot of things the first three years,” UW coach Bob Bender said.

“I love to shoot the basketball,” said Brown, whose lineage explains why. His dad, “Downtown” Freddy Brown, is the Seattle SuperSonics’ all-time scoring leader.

“I find myself wanting to shoot the ball every time I get it,” Bryan Brown said.

In Brown’s first three seasons at the UW, he nearly did that from 3-point range. Sixty of his 82 career field goal attempts came from beyond the 18-foot arc.

But then Bender came to Brown last year with a request: We need you to learn the point guard position. And, while you’re at it, get in shape.

Maybe those weren’t Bender’s exact words, but his message was very much to the point. UW needed a backup to point guard Senque Carey last season. Then, after the Huskies went a disastrous 10-20 and Carey transferred to New Mexico in the offseason, Brown became the man on the point.

Thus began a renovation project that may be as important to Husky basketball this season as the $40 million makeover at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Hurt by the team’s poor season and challenged by a new responsibility on the court, Brown literally became a changed man. He attacked the point guard position, and his pillowy body, with the passion of a player determined to end his playing career with no regrets.

“I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win basketball games,” said Brown, one of five seniors on the team. “If that has me playing the point guard position, that’s what I’m going to do to help this team. I know I might not ever play another basketball game in my life. To come off a 10-20, it just hurts. Every guy on this team has worked hard all summer to turn this around.”

Nobody emerged from the sweat sessions with a more dramatic change than Brown.

Pushed by UW assistant strength coach Michelle Lattimer and a couple of buddies, one of them former Dawg Andrew Moritz, Brown stayed with a program that whipped him into the best shape of his life.

“I would see Bryan on a regular basis in the summer and he was always doing the things he was supposed to be doing in the weight room,” Bender said.

Once Brown started to see his body change, he became determined to complete the transformation. Last year at this time he weighed 228. He’s now at 205.

“I’ve always wanted to get in good shape and lose a little weight so I can play more,” he said. “I took it as a personal challenge and I took it head on. I feel I can play more minutes now. I can get up and down the court quicker now and move around a lot easier than I did the last couple of years and not get as tired.”

With the body in tune, the mind had to adapt to the most difficult position on the court.

Brown had never played point guard, but Bender was confident his instincts would make for a smooth transition.

“There are certain things about Bryan that are just natural to him,” Bender said.

One is his leadership. Brown has never been afraid to speak up in team meetings, on the court or in the locker room, and Bender says he seems to know the right button to push with each of his teammates.

“My parents always told me: Never be a follower, always be a leader,” Brown said.

He also has a natural feel for the game. Despite his inexperience on the point, Brown understands when a big defensive stop needs to be made, when to run the ball up the court or slow the tempo.

“There are things you look for in a point guard that, even though he hasn’t played that position his whole career, he’s adaptable,” Bender said.

The adaptation came with a few very specifically described caveats from Bender:

  • Pass up the first open shot and run the offense. Oh, what a brutal requirement of a natural-born shooter.

  • Teach the Huskies’ two highly regarded freshmen, Curtis Allen and C.J. Massingale, the ways of the college game and, possibly, be willing to step aside later this season when they develop as expected.

    Of all the healthy food that Brown has dined on lately, that dose of pride – preparing a couple of youngsters to take his job – could have tasted the most bitter.

    “It’s hard,” he admitted. “But they’re great point guards and I want to show them how it is so when I’m gone, they can lead their teams to victory.”

    That may be the best example of Brown’s character, Bender said.

    “That alone shows a lot about what he’s willing to do and the sacrifices he’s willing to make in order for us to be a better basketball team,” Bender said.

    If Brown can direct motion offense the way Bender believes he can, the Huskies will have an added threat at the top of the key. Besides his passing and ball-handling requirements, Brown will keep opponents honest because of his threat to score from the perimeter.

    “It’s real important because of the shot clock,” Bender said. “There are times when the defense is going to shut down an option. As much as we’d like to think we’ve got enough different things to go to, the point guard at times is going to have to create shots. With his range, he really spreads the defense. You have to play him honestly a step above the 3-point line.”

    “If I’m left open,” Brown said, “I’m going to shoot it. I’m going to hit that jump shot.”

    Brown made two from 3-point range late in the game to help UW beat Seattle Pacific in an exhibition game on Nov. 10. Bender was thrilled.

    “He got us right into what we wanted at the end of the shot clock in the second half,” Bender said. “With the shot clock winding down, that scorer’s mentality took over. They sagged off and he raised up and hit two 3s in a row by just reading the defense. It’s a point guard’s thought process, but it’s a scorer’s mentality, ‘Hey, I’m not afraid to take a good shot.’ “

    Brown’s first test begins Tuesday, when the Huskies host Texas-El Paso at KeyArena, and then Saturday, when the Dawgs unveil the remodeled Hec Ed – now known as Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion – against New Mexico State.

    When the wraps come off the Huskies’ svelte new point guard, it could represent a transformation just as impressive as the rebuilt arena.

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