The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU’s Sterling Brown, the ‘fighter by nature,’ becoming a scorer by nature too

Sterling Brown is not one to shy from confrontation on the court. Even if it means he occasionally gets in trouble.

SMU’s Sterling Brown takes the ball up the court in SMU’s Jan. 19 win vs. UConn. Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield

In last season’s win vs. Cincinnati, he was ejected in the first half when he left the SMU bench after a skirmish started at the other end of the court. He left the scorer’s table and ventured toward the scrum. Leaving the bench area is an automatic ejection, so he and the exquisite mohawk he sported couldn’t play the rest of the game.

On the surface, the ejection seems like a boneheaded mistake. Yet his teammates and coaches didn’t see it that way. It’s just an extension of his personality.

“Sterling is the ambassador of fight. He is a fighter by nature,” SMU head coach Tim Jankovich says.

That attitude has been a constant of Brown’s identity since he arrived at SMU in 2013. Scoring, though, hadn’t always been. Now, that’s changed.

Brown has become a legitimate offensive threat, who on occasion has carried SMU’s offense when no one else could get shots to fall. As a senior, he is averaging 12 points per game, making 45 percent of his 3-pointers and taking nearly four 3-pointers per game. It’s a long way from a freshman reserve who averaged 4.4 points per game and mainly provided defense and rebounding on the wing.

Brown’s 3-point shot has been at the center of his evolution from bench player to legitimate scorer. Early in his freshman year, Jankovich and former SMU head coach Larry Brown told him that being a legitimate threat as a shooter had to be a big part of his offensive game. Without it, opposing teams could guard him easily, especially because he doesn’t have elite explosiveness off the dribble. He took on the challenge right away.

“I want to win,” Brown says. “Whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Brown shot a respectable 36 percent on 3s as a freshman. The number jumped to 44 percent as a sophomore. Still, he took only one or two per game, and usually in catch-and-shoot spots.

The big leap came in his junior season. His scoring average increased from 5.2 to 10.1 points per game. He became the first player in Division I history to shoot at least 60 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 (minimum 50 attempts) and 80 percent from the free throw line. Still, he only averaged about two 3-point attempts per game.

This season, Brown’s offensive production is better, even though he is shooting below the lofty percentages of last year. He has attempted 30 more 3-pointers than he did all of last season. He takes nearly 10 field goals and three free throws per game. When defenses turn their attention to SMU’s other scorers, he takes advantage. When he gets defenses’ attention, it creates chances for teammates.

“From the time he’s been here, he’s worked so hard on his shot,” Jankovich said. “He’s turned into not a good shooter, but a great shooter. He can shoot off the catch, off the dribble, or when he’s moving. He doesn’t have to be set.”

In last weekend’s win at Tulsa, Brown scored a career-high 27 points and shot 4-for-7 from 3. His 24-point second half helped SMU turn a single-digit halftime lead into a 23-point win. It earned him his first AAC Player of the Week award. In a two-point loss at Cincinnati in January, Brown scored 10 points in a six-minute span, helping SMU turn an early 15-point deficit into a manageable seven points at halftime.

“It’s gone along with all the rest of the game that he had, which was driving, posting, rebounding, toughness plays,” Jankovich says. “Now all of a sudden, he’s a great shooter. He’s a real weapon in a lot of ways.”

Those other parts of his game? Still present. Brown has four games with at least 10 rebounds, nine games with at least five assists, 10 games with at least two steals and four games with at least two blocks. He’s a perfect fit for a team built on versatility and unselfishness.

“My work is just showing,” Brown says. “Every aspect of my game is better.”

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