Mike Brown serves 3-point specials to Huskie fans

By Matt Stacionis

Cardinal-red and black signs flashed Mike Brown’s name often at Chick Evans Field House.

Even in times that saw very little student support for the men’s basketball team, Brown had a following. People liked his game. They liked the style that the senior guard brought to the team. And much like Lucas Johnson at the University of Illinois, Brown gave fans at NIU someone they could relate to.

“You can’t really interact with the fans on the court, but a lot of times people you don’t really know will be like, ‘How was your game?,’ I saw you playing’ or ‘Good job,’ Brown said. “It feels really good to know that for all the hard work that I’ve put in, people recognize it.”

But the comfort and support Brown had grown so accustomed to inside the fan-friendly fieldhouse started shifting toward personalized heckling. And with that, Brown realized it was time for a change after last season.

The senior guard cut his long brown hair, dumped the headband that many of his teammates sported this season and realized he needed to create more shot

opportunities for himself.

That last task was his toughest problem.

Since his freshmen season, Brown was noted for his shooting ability, always able to take an open look and convert it into a basket. What he struggled with, however, was driving to the basket.

“Mike has been taking the ball to the basket better, but he’s still not as a player that I would catergorize as someone who can create his own shots,” said former NIU interim head coach Andy Greer. “A lot of the things that he gets is through other people’s screens. He has worked hard, and he has gotten better.”

A solid claim can be made for letting Brown cut loose from the 3-point line, though. The Schaumburg native finished his senior season as the nation’s 12th leading 3-point shooter, going 62 of 141 (44 percent). Showing off his natural ability, Brown averaged 12.5 points per game and hit a team-high .857 from the free-throw line.

“I don’t do it as a much as I should do it now, but it was a priority,” Brown said. “I don’t want to be known as just a shooter.”

The Huskies have been noted for strong inside play during Brown’s era. For the majority of that time, center T.J. Lux was the key offensive weapon, with others filling in around him. After Lux, Leon Rodgers was thought to be the go-to guy on the Huskies’ line-up, with Brown filling in around the edges. Things didn’t quite work to that effect, though, with Brown’s shooting also leading the team in minutes at an even 1,000, 98 more then Rodgers.

“It’s been very important,” said Greer of Brown’s outside shooting. “I think he’s had a marvelous year and we have gotten a lot of our stuff inside because he has opened the outside.”

When head coach Brian Hammel resigned six games into the season, Brown and his teammates took on new roles. The team’s freshmen were forced to mature quickly, and Brown needed to become a mentor for them. He said that as a group, the team was able to overcome the obstacle.

One of the sources of outlet in the situation was Brown’s close friend and teammate Steve Determan, with whom he’s been close from the time they reached NIU. The players lived on the same all-boys quiet lifestyle floor in Neptune Hall, where Determan said he and Brown formed a strong bond for four years.

“We came together and said there’s nothing we can do about that. We can only keep going — it wasn’t just me, it was us collectively,” Brown said.

Now that it’s all over, Brown said he isn’t going to reflect on a loss or series of losses when remembering his college career. In fact, he said, there won’t be many games he’ll single out.

“You don’t remember the season or specific things — except the Wisconsin game,” said Brown of the team’s 55-51 home defeat of Wisconsin two seasons ago. “That’s a game I’m always going to remember. You remember the fun you had with your teammates more then specific games.”

Notable in Brown’s scrapbook are the times he went up against Mid-American Conference players who are emerging NBA stars, like Bonzi Wells, Earl Boykins and Wally Szczerbiak.

And at the front of that same scrapbook is Brown’s Wisconsin game, when a nearly sold-out crowd chanted for him.

“It was the only time there was an atmosphere here. It was great,” Brown said.Mike Brown created a style of play

for himself through his long-range shooting.