Stepping it up

The junior point guard they call "Little Bobby" is filling big shoes on a Fullerton basketball team with even bigger expectations. (Photos by Bryan Crowe)

Despite losing two of their top scorers and a slew of veteran leadership, the Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team is expected to have a better season than last year’s National Invitation Tournament appearance. That’s because junior point guard Bobby Brown is finally ready for his breakout season.

The 6’2”, 170-pound Westchester High School product has been overshadowed his entire basketball career by former high school teammates like Arizona Wildcat guard Hassan Adams and New York Knick forward Trevor Ariza and then by Titan standouts Pape Sow and Ralphy Holmes.

“I didn’t feel bad,” said Brown, who added that he loved playing with Sow and Holmes. “It was just something that made me stronger as a person on and off the court. It added fuel to my fire.”

The 21-year-old communications major known as “LB” – short for Little Bobby - looks to lead the reloaded Titans to a successful season in order to live up to expectations and garner more attention from NBA scouts.

“He’s such an interesting story,” said CSUF Head Coach Bob Burton, the person Brown credits for playing the biggest role in his basketball career. “He’s one of the really great stories in college basketball because here’s a kid who wasn’t really highly recruited, and now he has a chance to play in the NBA.”

As a youth growing up in the rough streets of Inglewood, Brown used basketball to stay out of trouble. But his lack of size - he was only 5’2” as a freshman at national powerhouse Westchester - kept him on the bench where his skills went unnoticed. It wasn’t until his senior year that Brown had the opportunity to start full-time, grabbing the attention of CSUF coaches.

“We recruited him basically because we needed help at the point guard position,” Burton said. “We actually had no idea he would play as much as he did as a freshman [in college], but because of our team at that stage, he was thrown into the fire and was allowed to play on the spot and learn at the college level.”

Brown proved to be a fast learner, earning Big West Freshman of the Year honors and showing growth potential as his statistics continued to improve. His second season with the Titans, Brown averaged 16.8 points - four points shy of beating Holmes for the Big West scoring title in 2004 - and 4.6 assists per game.

“Coming in. I knew I had to be a leader. I’m the point guard, it’s kind of like being the quarterback of the team.” Brown said. “Coach [Burton] preached that [I’m] going to have to be the leader. [I’m] going to have to be more vocal.”

Vocal leadership was something that Brown and the coaching staff worked on over the summer. Despite being one of the team’s best players, Brown’s verbal leadership skills did not fully progress until recently.

“[In the past], he used to be more quiet,” said red-shirt sophomore Scott Cutley, who played with Brown in high school. “He’s becoming more of a leader everyday. He knows this is his team.”

Brown’s transition into leadership may have been eased by his magnetic personality, an asset that helped recruit some of the Titan’s best and most promising players like freshmen Jerard Moret and Jerrel Lake, and Cutley, all of whom played at Westchester.

“The big thing about him is that he’s the type of kid that other players are really drawn to because they really respect his athletic ability and his passion for the game and his winning attitude,” Burton said. “He really draws players to him. He is probably, to be really honest, the best recruiter we’ve had in this program. He’s really responsible for at least three or four players being here, and they came because he was here.”

Even with his new status, Brown hasn’t let his success change his personality.

Bobby Brown prepares to shoot a free throw in practice last week at Titan Gym. The Titans will be on the road for the entire month of December. (CARLOS DELGADO/For the Daily Titan)
“Bobby’s still the same person,” Cutley said. “Always cracking jokes. He’s been one of my best friends since back in Westchester … He gets along with everybody.”

On the court, the Titan faithful have already seen an emotional player with an improved jump shot and stronger court-vision.

In the team’s season opener, a blowout-win against Hope International, Brown scored 13 points in the first half and sat out the second with the game decided.

“He’s grown up to be what a point guard’s supposed to be,” said senior forward Jamaal Brown, who is expected to have a very big season of his own and has already shown the ability to carry the Titans for extended stretches in games. “His whole game is better and he’s more verbal. He’s the leader of this team and he’s who we look to when adversity comes around.”

Adversity came around when the team played Pepperdine. With five minutes left in the game and his team down by three, Bobby Brown took over. Using crossovers and hitting the clutch shots, he scored 10 straight points as the Titans cruised to a 76-66 win.

With the excitement of a promising season, the NBA draft rumors, and his leadership responsibilites, Bobby Brown’s biggest challenge may be to stay focused.

“It’s fun,” he said. “But I’m going to stay humble though.”

In-Depth, Drawn-Out

Career highlights:

  • Big West Freshman of the Year for averaging 13.2 points, 3.5 assists, and two rebounds a game during the 2003-2004 season.
  • Big West Honorable Mention his sophomore year, when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds a game to help his team advance to the third round of the National Invitational Tournament.
  • Pre-season Big West All-Conference selection this season, where he has assumed a leadership role as captain and point guard of the the Titans, who are projected to finish first in their conference.

Career highs:

  • 30 points against Eastern Washington in a 70-68 win on the road on 12/10/04.
  • 13 assists in a 107-73 home victory against Hope International on 11/27/04.
  • 7 rebounds in an 85-69 second-round win at University of San Francisco in the NIT on 3/18/05.
  • 6 steals in a 63-60 loss at San Diego State on 12/21/04.