Playing the waiting game has paid off for Breanna Brown

Breanna Brown has waited to make an impact on the OSU women’s basketball team.

Keenan Puncocher, Multimedia Contributor

LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003 at the age of 19. Armed with a unique talent and high expectations, the king dreamed of one day having the opportunity to be crowned a league champion.

James would need to wait nine seasons until he could be called an NBA champion.

Much like one of her favorite players, current Oregon State redshirt junior Breanna Brown shares a similar story of learning the importance of waiting before shining in the spotlight.

When it came to winning at high school basketball, Brown knew how to get it done. Rated as the nation’s 49th best player by Blue Star Basketball in 2013, Brown began high school with a passion and knowledge for the game.

Brown attended Bishop O’Dowd High School near her hometown of Oakland, California, a small Catholic school with an emphasis on strong athletics.

While at O’Dowd, Brown and her team claimed three North Coast Section (NCS) championships, winning back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013, and she served as a team captain beginning her sophomore year.

During her senior season, the team finished with a 30-3 record, ending their season on a 24-game winning streak, 22 by double digits.

“We were a powerhouse and had a killer team,” Brown said. “My entire class ended up going D-1 and whenever you have had that kind of powerhouse, everyone is gunning for you, which gave me a lot of awareness to what I’d see being on one of those top teams (in college).”

When Brown needed to decide where she would attend university, her decision was primarily made based on the enticing coaching staff at the time. Brown wanted to play basketball surrounded by coaches that would take the time to help improve her game and work with her when needed.

“Having coaches with their doors open is one of the biggest things,” Brown said. “I know I can go to a coach at any time and ask for help. Sometimes when watching clips, the coaches will already have them for me before I ask and take the time to sit with me without a second thought. Our coaches have definitely been a rock for us.”

Brown’s first game in a Beaver uniform was during the season opener in November of 2013. In that game, Brown secured five rebounds and scored four points in 14 minutes. OSU would go on to win that game 94-49, introducing Brown to her first taste of college victory by way of a 45-point blowout.

Although Brown would not start a game in her freshman campaign, she would go on to play in 30 of a possible 35 regular season games, averaging 2.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in eight minutes per contest.

 “I was expecting the transition (from high to college) to be quicker than it was,” Brown said. “I remember in general looking to improve and elevate my game and become surrounded by people that would help get me there.”

The following season Brown would elect to redshirt during the 2014-15 season, sidelining her chances to play.

In her first return to action in a little over eight months, Brown would have a modest showing, grabbing four rebounds and scoring six points. Over the course of that season, Brown would begin to see a minute’s reduction, as well as fewer appearances on the court largely playing backup to former OSU and current WNBA player Ruth Hamblin.

“In the past, Bre has needed to give Hamblin some (resting) minutes,” head coach Scott Rueck said. “In her freshman year, she had some significant moments where she had a big role in some key stretches where Hamblin was in foul trouble and Brown had to produce with longer minutes.”

Altogether, Brown would play in 18 total games during her redshirt sophomore season and average just over five minutes per contest. Despite the reduction on the court, Brown made the most out of her situation by learning and studying from those who she backed up.

Brown and the Beavers would finish their season with an overall 32-5 record while reaching a program first Final Four appearance, Brown’s favorite memory so far at OSU.

“If I could explain it in one word, I would say surreal,” Brown said. “It was definitely exciting and a huge experience, once in a lifetime for some people.”

Having entered the 2016-17 season with a new roster, Brown knew that her opportunity to once again make the same kind of impact she made in high school was within reach.

In the first nine games of the season, Brown averaged a career-best 7.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, while playing 19.8 minutes per game. Strong play to start the season earned Brown her first start of her college career just 10 games into redshirt junior season.

“She is being more aggressive and she knows that she needs to score one-on-one in the post,” senior point guard Sydney Wiese said. “For the last couple of years she’s sort of been looking for other people instead of looking for her own shot, and now she knows that we need her big presence down there.”

Brown has started 16 straight games since cracking the starting lineup while shooting a conference third-best 54 percent from the field.

“I think for the first time in her career she is somebody that is absolutely counted on every day,” Rueck said. “It is awesome to watch her rise, knowing how bad she’s wanted to play the last couple of years. It is hard not getting the minutes when you work so hard in the off-season, and then to not get rewarded on the court. It’s is a part of sports without a doubt, but it’s not easy either.”

Brown has matched a career-high 16 points twice in her last four games and has produced double figures in scoring 13 times this season, scoring double figures just once in her first two seasons.

“I think this season I have a lot more opportunity to get on the block and get to work,” Brown said. “In the past, my role was rebounding and now with other players gone such as Ruth, I have taken on another role because it has become more important for me to get buckets for our team.”

An uptake in defensive play has also fueled a strong season for Brown. Currently fourth in the Pac-12 in blocked shots with 1.8 per game, Brown has been providing defensive down low this season.

“She has always brought great energy to both ends of the floor, and I think the time she has put in on her own in the weight room and working on her game is really paying off,” Wiese said. “You can see how versatile she is and gets a lot of her points from working for rebounds and putbacks.”

While an increase in overall play continues to elevate Brown’s game, Coach Rueck has noticed an improvement in another area of play: her leadership abilities.

“This year we’ve seen Bre become more and more efficient and her leadership emerge,” Rueck said. “That leadership is not just a voice and a presence, but now it’s impactful to where you’re seeing an example on the court.”

So far while at Oregon State, Brown holds a 106-24 record, drawing parallels that almost mirror her 86-career win percentage while in high school. Although Brown has not always had the opportunities to shine at OSU until recently, her winning mentality and fierce competitive spirit have been felt in the locker room and beyond for years.

“Her toughness in a leadership standpoint of ‘we’re getting this done’ and ‘we came here to do this,’ and ‘let’s go,’ I don’t know how you measure it,” Rueck said. “I know it’s what she’s deserved, she’s earned it and is running with the opportunity. That impact has been absolutely key and maybe one of the strongest presences on this team.”