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If 24 points and 14 rebounds during a 77-74 win over Oklahoma State did not make Greg Brown’s intentions during his time with the Texas basketball program clear, his postgame words certainly did.
“My mindset coming in was just win and put my team in a great position to win this game,” Brown said Sunday. “I did raise my level for this game because I knew it was a Big 12 opponent, and we want a Big 12 championship first before we can do anything else.”
There were plenty of reasons for Brown to be motivated against the Cowboys. It could have been to simply top Cade Cunningham, Brown’s former AAU teammate and another highly touted prospect. Similarly, it could have been to put deliver a memorable performance in front of the eyes of so many NBA executives there to see both in action.
Neither of those drove Brown during Sunday’s game.
“I had to raise my level so I can put my team in a great position to win this game,” Brown said.
Brown may not be at Texas for much more than 30 games. This time next year he should be playing in the NBA a few months after his selection in the early portions of the 2021 NBA Draft, making millions of dollars to play the game he loves.
Those career milestones are in the distance, but his desire to bring a Big 12 championship to the Forty Acres for the first time since 2007-08 shows that Brown is at Texas for Texas.
The lead up to a game between two teams with top prospects often focuses on those prospects. It is something Smart has experienced before, most notably when Trae Young’s hype train traveled from Norman to Austin in 2018 when the Sooners took on Mo Bamba and the Longhorns.
On Sunday, Smart made sure Brown was focused first and foremost on helping Texas as opposed any other motivation with Cunningham and the Cowboys coming into town.
“The message to him over the last few days is at the end of the day it’s not about numbers,” Smart said. “It’s about, can you make your team win? That’s whether you’re playing against this opponent, or this individual player, or whoever it may be.”
Brown’s own postgame words show the message was well-received by the star freshman. His 24 and 14 stole the show and Jones’ 22 points helped, but it was still a three-point game against a team picked to finish seventh in the Big 12. The Longhorns will take 20-point performances from its two best players, but Brown knows the Longhorns will not take the Big 12 crown without help from others.
He is determined to help them.
“We’re trying to get players like Jericho (Sims), Kai (Jones), Donovan (Williams), a lot of players, get them going playing their great basketball because I think we haven’t reached our full potential as a team,” Brown said. “Once we get our full potential going, it’s going to be hard to stop us.”
There is a high probability Brown will be the fourth first-round pick produced by Smart during his time in Austin, but Brown’s style of play is different than his predecessors. He is not exactly Bamba, Jarrett Allen, or Jaxson Hayes.
He does have a little bit of each current NBA Longhorn in his game. Smart said Brown’s “extendo arms that just keep going” remind him of Bamba’s. Brown’s attacks of the basket bear resemblance to Hayes’ slams. Brown’s shot-blocking numbers, currently at 1.5 per contest, match Allen’s from his year in Austin.
Like several of the Texas one-and-dones before him, Brown immediately stepped in to be the Longhorns’ most talented and prolific rebounder. Through eight games, brown averages 7.5 rebounds and reached the double-digit mark three times. He grabbed 14 against OSU, five of them offensive rebounds.
“I take a lot of pride in rebounding,” Brown said. “As Kawhi (Leonard) said, board man gets paid. I just have to get the boards and help my team win.”
Smart consistently mentions growth. He did so for Allen, for Bamba, and even for the teams without one-year players. The consistent message has its application for Brown, who Smart said “still has a lot of room for growth,” as Texas enters a crucial stretch of its season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll.
Through seven games this season, and even during the pre-season, Brown has taken the message to heart. His growth is Texas’ growth. His success is Texas’ success.
It is evident in his willingness to do the dirty work. If that was not enough, Brown’s words tell the rest of the story.
“It’s getting there, but every game, game-by-game, I just get a little more comfortable,” Brown said. “I’ve just got to keep playing, keep practicing, and keep taking my teammates’ guidance. I’ll get there soon.”
Cover photo courtesy of Texas Athletics