Pitt’s Brown finding his role on the court

By Adam Littman

‘ ‘ ‘ Trying to watch Gilbert Brown for an entire series isn’t easy. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Take your… ‘ ‘ ‘ Trying to watch Gilbert Brown for an entire series isn’t easy. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Take your eyes off the sophomore swingman for a second while he’s in the corner behind the 3-point line, and next thing you know he’s soaring toward the rim as the recipient of an alley-oop. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ And it’s easy to overlook Brown’s stat lines in the box score, especially with center DeJuan Blair putting up double-doubles nightly, Levance Fields dishing out non-stop assists, and Sam Young finishing out his career as one of Pitt’s all-time best scorers. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ What Brown brings off the bench isn’t solely based on stats. Heading into Pitt’s game against Cincinnati over the weekend, Brown had a few underwhelming, inconsistent performances in a row. His performance during Pitt’s win against No. 1-ranked Connecticut on Monday night was the same way. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But Brown is starting to now learn that it’s not always his job to score, it’s his job simply to do what the team needs him to do on any given night. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘After having a couple of games not go so well for me, I was just thinking about staying positive and trying to contribute and do what I can,’ said Brown. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ On Saturday against Cincinnati, those contributions came with points. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ About midway through the first half of that game, Cincinnati trailed by two points. Brown helped Pitt’s lead increase by slamming home two dunks and converting a 3-point play in a span of minutes to give the Panthers a nine point lead. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The Bearcats managed to hang around well into the second half, slowly creeping back into the game by cutting a double-digit lead down to just five with about 12:30 to go. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Fields was dribbling around at the top of the key when Brown dashed toward the hoop from the corner. A perfectly lobbed pass from Fields resulted in another Brown slam, not only waking up the crowd, but the Panthers as well. Pitt went on to score nine straight points after the alley-oop, giving it a commanding 14-point lead, which it would not relinquish. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I was trying to be more assertive and insert myself into the game where I could,’ said Brown. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ He ended the game playing 17 minutes and scoring 12 points ‘- his second highest total of the year and his highest in a Big East game. He added two rebounds and an assist for good measure. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘He stepped up,’ said Blair. ‘He gave us a spark off the bench.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ On Monday night, things were different for Brown. In fact, he didn’t score a single point. In 25 minutes, he missed all five shots he took. But he helped the Panthers pull off the upset in other ways. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Brown hauled in a season-high seven rebounds ‘- three of which were on the offensive end. He also played strong defense, tallied two assists and added a steal. Box scores can be misleading: Brown’s ability to contribute in a variety of ways is one reason the Panthers are playing their best basketball of the year looking toward the postseason. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Brown is averaging 19.3 minutes a game this year, the most by any non-starter. And while he’s only a sophomore, he has plenty of experience. He started 15 games last year after an injury to Mike Cook. And it’s not that he’s incapable of putting up big numbers or jumping through the roof. In a game last month against South Florida, the Bulls were late getting to the Pete because of weather, so Brown, along with Young, entertained the crowd with a mini slam dunk contest. Heading into next season, he figures to be an integral part of the Pitt offense. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But what Brown is doing best this season most likely won’t have you doing a double-take when reading a box score. He will, though, help Pitt in whatever way it needs him to. And for now, that’s all Pitt needs.