Miami Sports Day

NCAA PREVIEW: Miami’s Bruce Brown, No Books, No Ball

Photos by HurricaneSports.com

By Steven Preciado, UM communications intern –

Selection Sunday. A day that college basketball student-athletes dream of.  Where some schools are watching with hopes of reaching the Tournament, for this Miami team it’s a matter of whom they’ll play, rather than if they’ll pl

With the Band of the Hour playing the fight song as the men’s basketball team walked into the Rathskeller full of their fans cheering them on, the Canes took their seats as the Selection Sunday show on CBS started.

Following the East Region reveal, it was now on to the Midwest. With the 1-16 matchup set, then came the announcement for the next matchup: No. 8 seed Miami Hurricanes versus the No. 9 seed Michigan State Spartans. Players and fans jumped for joy, high fives all around.

While guys like Ja’Quan Newton, Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy were here for last year’s tournament, there are plenty of new faces making their NCAA Tournament debut this season and one of them has been making quite a name for himself in his first year with the Hurricanes.

2017 Miami Hurricanes Men’s Basketball vs North Carolina State

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming into this season,” said Bruce Brown, the Hurricanes’ freshman shooting guard.

The Boston native recalled to his first moments when he started playing basketball at the age of six, watching his father and cousin play.

“They used to play ball in this grown man league,” he said. “They used to just throw me a ball and I would try to dribble and do moves that my dad would do, but I couldn’t do it at first because I was so small. As I got older I eventually got the hang of it and got really fast. I was short, but I could score the ball.”

Brown then started playing in a league that was called No Books No Ball in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Brown’s hometown of Boston.

“My uncle, Tony, taught me the fundamentals of the game,” he said. “He taught me how to pass, shoot and dribble.”

But when it came to his first true love of a sport, the ball wasn’t round, but rather oval shaped.

“I really liked football before basketball,” he said. “I felt I was better at the sport and I loved it more.”

As Brown got older, taller and longer, he decided that he would stick with basketball. Transferring from Wakefield Memorial High School to Vermont Academy also helped him make that decision.

“When I went to boarding school, they didn’t have football,” he said. “I would’ve pursued it for sure because I was really good in high school.”

When the recruiting process came along, Brown stayed pretty quiet on the visits he was taking.

“During the recruiting process, I really didn’t answer the phone,” he said.

This is something that Coach Jim Larrañaga could attest to.

“We tried recruiting Bruce throughout the spring and summer,” Coach  Larrañaga said. “I would text him and call him, but he would never return my calls. I thought he had absolutely no interest in us.”

To much of Coach Larrañaga’s surprise, he finally got a call back from Brown in September asking if he was going up to see him.

“I was like, ‘What?’ and then he told me we were one of his schools. Then I told him, ‘Bruce you never returned a text or a call’ and he said, ‘Yeah that doesn’t matter’,” Coach Larrañaga said.

From that point on, Brown loved Miami

“It was great talking to Coach L,” Brown said, “He seemed to have great energy, and it was great having him come see me and talk to me.”

Coach Larrañaga serves as a great mentor for Brown, as he learns things from him every day as a man and basketball player.

“I could go to him and talk about anything,” he said. “He’s always there for me, whatever I need. If I’m sick, he cares for me. He’ll tell me to take a day off, so it’s great.”

Brown has accomplished quite a bit during his freshman year at Miami. Just nine games into his season, he had a triple-double, the second one in program history after Anthony King had the first one in 2004.

Brown was also named ACC Rookie of the Week twice and had career performances against both Duke and North Carolina, against whom he averaged 22.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists on 65.4 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent shooting from long range in the four games against the two ACC powerhouses.

“It was great,” Brown said in reference to his 30-point game against UNC. “I just played hard and competed, and my body just felt good that day. I don’t know what it was, but I just felt different. Plus, the way they played defense on me, where they tried to deny, it was easy for me to get into the lane and finish layups that I know I could make.”

Then about a month later, Duke came into the Watsco Center and after the Canes’ victory, the fans and students rushed the court, which was a great feeling for him.

“As a young kid, I grew up watching Duke and all their games,” he said. “Now being on the other side and actually playing them, I always wanted to play well because I never got recruited by them. So, I knew that game was a mark on my list to show the world that I’m actually a good player.”

But no achievement was greater than the one he received at the end of the regular season, being named to the All-ACC Academic Team, on which he was joined by teammate Davon Reed.

“It was shocking at first,” said Brown. “I didn’t even know that I was in the running for it. I found out through our staff, and was surprised because I’ve never been on an academic team in my life. It was a great feeling for me and my parents.”

Once he found out the news, the first people he called were his parents.

“My mom started crying,” he said. “My dad just told me ‘that’s great’ because he wanted to be strong and not cry on the phone. But he probably cried after I got off the phone with him.”

The one that was the happiest for him was his brother.

“He struggled in college and eventually had to drop out, so it was great to have the feeling of my family being happy for me,” he said.

Getting good grades was not always easy for him early on in his life.

“I didn’t do well at all, until I got to boarding school,” Brown said. “My mother would worry that once I would get to college that it would be really tough for me.”

The way he was able to change all of that was by going to study hall every day and working extra hard.

“We have to get eight hours a week, but due to my first-term grades, my hours got reduced to four,” he said. “But I’m there every day doing something. Even if I don’t have an essay due that week, I’m doing something to prepare for the essay or just meeting with my tutors, mentors and academic advisors.”

He feels the gratitude he gets for this accomplishment feels a lot better than the gratitude he gets for his on court abilities.

“A lot of people don’t know me off the court, so to have this kind of accolade is great and people know that I’m a true student-athlete, and that I’m working hard in class and on the court,” he said.

With the madness of March looming closely and Miami’s game against the ninth seed Michigan State Spartans just a day away, Brown is just happy to be here.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Obviously, it’s my first time in the NCAA Tournament. I’m always watching it and now to be a part of it, it’s just a great feeling.”

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