It was only a matter of gym visits — not time — before Barry Brown snapped out of his slump.
While most basketball players use games, practice sessions and stat sheets to track their progress, Brown measures things differently.
The sophomore K-State guard lives by the following mantra: If things are going great, you need to get in the gym and keep things going great. If things are going average, you need to get in the gym and make things go great. If things are going poorly, well, you better drop everything and get in the gym until things change.
“He might as well live at the gym,” said Brown’s mother, Tracia Richmond. “Every time I call to check in on him that’s where he is, even late at night. It’s always been that way.”
There is no basketball scenario that doesn’t lead to Brown seeking out hours of practice time. In high school, he followed games with pickup sessions at a nearby YMCA, staying there until they shut off the lights.
Brown isn’t sure how many times he has been in K-State’s practice facility over the past two weeks. It’s hard to keep track when you make a handful of trips each day, after all. But his work appears to be paying off.
He scored a game-high 21 points on 9-of0-14 shooting earlier this week against Iowa State, a performance that nearly matched his combined output (27 points on 8-of-31 shooting) in his previous four games. Perhaps it was the jolt he needed to get his season back on track.
“It’s good to see that some of my work in the gym is paying off,” Brown said. “I hope (the slump is over). I am just in the gym trying to help my teammates out, especially on the offensive end.”
Brown has done plenty of that this season.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from St. Petersburg, Fla., has blossomed into one of the Wildcats’ best players. Since arriving in Manhattan with little fanfare, he has earned a spot on the Big 12’s All-Newcomer Team, evolved into a strong defender and emerged as a reliable scorer.
“He is our most improved player,” K-State senior Carlbe Ervin said. “Barry is playing really well and shooting the ball very well. He’s having a great year.”
He owes much of that success to his work ethic. Few expected this kind of production from Brown, at least this early.
Remember, his commitment to K-State caught many off guard. Brown’s parents were surprised, so were his friends, his teammates, his coaches and K-State basketball fans.
Brown hadn’t so much as visited Manhattan when he pledged his loyalty in the fall of 2014, and few in the college basketball world had visited Florida to watch Brown play. Even K-State coach Bruce Weber discovered him by accident while making a recruiting trip to watch another prospect.
As the sixth-man on a loaded AAU team that featured five major-conference recruits, including top overall prospect and current NBA forward Ben Simmons, he was often forgotten.
What made Brown fall in love with K-State before stepping foot on campus? What made K-State think so highly of Brown when most Florida schools weren’t interested?
The answers are now obvious.
Three years after coming off the bench to help his AAU team, he is a starter and the third-leading scorer (12.2 points) at K-State.
“Some coaches don’t really watch players when they recruit,” Weber said. “They take someone’s ratings and go with it. We actually watch and see if we like the guy or not. In this case, I think he has turned out pretty good and I think he can turn out even better, because he loves it and wants to be in the gym.”
It’s a habit he picked up from his father, Barry Brown Sr., a former star player at Jacksonville State and current middle school principal.
Father used to coach son with Bob Knight intensity in youth leagues and now provides constant feedback on his play.
“I was relentless with him,” Brown’s father said. “I was tough on him. I was hard on him. There wasn’t a word I didn’t use to cuss him out. A lot of people would say I was pushing him too hard growing up, but I just wanted him to be a solid player. I pushed him on the court and I pushed him in the classroom, telling him he had to put in the work if he wanted to succeed. That’s something he latched onto.”
So much so, that he can block out distractions. Brown has learned to take coaching criticism like cherry flavored medicine. When his father showed him tough love on the basketball court, he responded by patting him on the rear and saying, “I got this.” When Weber is hard on him, he simply nods.
Brown credits his father for making him mentally tough.
“He really knows what is best for me and what it takes to get the best out of me,” Brown said. “He pushed me to unbelievable levels and made me the player I am today.”
There wasn’t much to critique in Brown’s last game, but his father will find a way to push him. He could still do a better job scoring at the basket and his shooting form lacks consistency. His could improve on defense.
K-State will take its chances when Brown plays the way he did against Iowa State. And Brown hopes to repeat that effort against Texas on Saturday.
Yet another reason for him to visit the gym.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Kansas State at Texas
- When: 1 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Erwin Center, Austin
- Records: KSU 16-10, 5-8 Big 12; UT 10-16, 4-9
- Radio: 1480-AM, 102.5-FM, 107.9-FM
- TV: Longhorn Network
Kansas State (16-10, 5-8): The Wildcats remain on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but they are running out of time to prove they are worthy of an at-large bid. K-State has lost six of its past seven and could use a strong finish. It could also use Johnson in this game. Texas is among the biggest teams in the Big 12, and the Wildcats could use his size to combat that. Johnson is considered questionable to play with a sprained ankle.
Texas (10-16, 4-9): The Longhorns are struggling in Shaka Smart’s second season, but they have been hard to beat in Austin of late. Texas has won three straight home games against Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Before that, they pushed West Virginia to the buzzer and beat Oklahoma State. But the Longhorns are coming off back-to-back losses, on the road to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Allen could be a difference-maker. If K-State goes small, he could have a favorable matchup inside.
RPIs as of Friday: K-State 55, UT 151.