THE DAILY STUDENT NEWSPAPER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH

Men’s basketball: Former Panther to play in Germany

Nate Barnes | August 23, 2011    

All 32 NBA teams passed on graduated Pitt senior Gilbert Brown in the NBA… All 32 NBA teams passed on graduated Pitt senior Gilbert Brown in the NBA draft.

Twice.

But now Brown is taking another road in the attempt to make an NBA team. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound small forward signed a deal to play overseas for the s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg, a basketball club in Germany, shortly after the NBA draft.

The luxury of the deal is that it includes what Brown’s agent T.J. Doyle called an “NBA-out.” The out means that once the NBA lockout ends, Brown will automatically be released from his contract with the German team and free to pursue his chances of an NBA career.

The Draft

An athletic and versatile forward, Brown averaged 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field during his season year. All were career highs.

“Going into the draft I felt really confident,” Brown said. “All of my workouts went really well. But I also knew there was a high possibility that I would not get drafted.”

Playing professionally overseas gives Brown the opportunity to develop his game, especially important since the lockout cancelled the NBA summer league.

Judging by the amount pre-draft  attention given to Brown by teams like the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, it seems likely that he will at least receive preseason training camp invitations, if not a contract once the lockout comes to an end..

“Before the draft, everything was crazy,” Doyle said. “He was projecting to be drafted in the early to middle to late second round. It really depended on who fell out of the first round.”

Unfortunately for Brown, another player that caught Boston’s eye fell into the second round.

“It really came down to the Celtics picking between Brown and E’Twaun Moore from Purdue,” Doyle said. “With the great season [Moore] just had offensively, he was expected to go in the first round. When he fell into the second round, they couldn’t pass on him as he will be playing combo guard for them,” Doyle said.

Boston needs help on the perimeter and a combo guard like Moore could help reduce stress on all-star point guard Rajon Rondo.

With his size, Brown possesses prototypical physical tools to be a slasher out on the wing at the 3 spot. His long arms, jumping ability and quickness provide him with the tools to build a successful career in the NBA as a small forward.

Road to the Pros

Brown’s athleticism addresses a need Boston was looking to satisfy in the draft. With the team’s perimeter tandem of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen beginning to age, the Celtics could use some younger, more athletic players on the wing.

It’s possible that Brown will find himself in Boston once the lockout ends. Brown said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon set him up for success.

“Part of the reason why the Celtics brought me is because I played in his system, and we are winners,” Brown said. “They like that I am tough both mentally and physically, and I can be a leader.”

Other teams originally interested in Brown included the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns, who attempted to purchase a draft pick in order to choose Brown.

Brown was well-known for his defensive abilities at the collegiate level, having defended guards like UConn’s Kemba Walker, St. John’s Dwight Hardy and Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell this season. He also battled against players in the post, occasionally playing against power forwards.

Prior to the NBA draft, Kyle Nelson of DraftExpress, a national scouting service, wrote that Brown’s “intangibles and defensive abilities will certainly translate to the next level.”

“Though he will be 24 years old by the start of the NBA season and there are question marks regarding whether he can consistently make NBA 3-pointers with his awkward mechanics, Brown remains an intriguing prospect whose niche as a pro is already well-established,” Nelson wrote.

Although other critics also mentioned issues with Brown’s offensive game, the former Panther’s performance in workouts proved his skills to NBA scouts.

“I came in to the workouts and I dominated,” Brown said. “I was outplaying guys like JaJuan Johnson and Klay Thompson, and I really proved that I am a lot more than just a role player.”

Although Brown shone in NBA workouts, it wasn’t enough to earn him a selection during the draft. Fortunately for Brown, Doyle knew what to expect coming into the process.

“When we signed Brown on April 1, I told him ‘We are going to push you to NBA teams,’” Doyle said. “If you don’t get drafted, you will get a deal overseas and then work your way to the league from there. Now that the Celtics are interested in him, the out we have [to terminate the contract] is very important.”

So far, step one of this plan is in motion: Brown will head to Germany to work on his game. Doyle said he thinks NBA teams will be surprised by the player’s performance, likening Brown to former Marquette player Wes Matthews who went undrafted in 2009.

Matthews averaged 15.9 points and played 33.6 minutes per game for the Portland Trail Blazers last season.

Brown will leave for Germany in mid-August, and the German leauge’s season will begin on Oct. 3.

“I’m not staying idle,” Brown said. “I’m out there working on my game and improving so that when this lockout ends, I will be ready to start my NBA career.”

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