On the Verge of a Breakout

With the Minnesota basketball program hitting rock bottom this season under head coach Dan Monson, this might be the year to pull a high profile athlete from inside the state's borders. One player at or near the top of Iowa State's junior wish list is a shooting guard from a suburb of Minneapolis.

Richfield High's Ray Brown has held an offer from the Cyclone coaching staff for months since lighting it up last summer for Team Minnesota on the AAU circuit. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound scorer averaged 28 points in the AAU Nationals and ranked as one of the top-15 point producers at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.

He carried that momentum into this winter, leading his high school team and led it to a number one ranking for the first time in 30 years. One thing is safe to say – Brown is well advanced on the road to recovery after a knee injury late in his freshman season.

"One of the things that Ray Brown brings to the table is that he has a really good combination of size and skill level for the shooting guard position," said Team Minnesota coach Ryan Thornton. "He's about 6-5 or 6-6 and already is a pure guard. Sometimes kids in high school kids with good size may be good shooters, but are really post players and have to convert over to a wing or guard. Well, this kid is already a guard.

"He's really on the verge of breaking out this summer. The kid had a knee injury during his freshman year, so his sophomore year he really wasn't at full strength. We had a really rigorous training program, with all of our guys working out with a personal trainer six days a week, and that helped him build some strength in his legs. Once he started to get his legs under him, he was a total different player because he can really get to the rim. He's at about 95 percent now and is putting up good numbers this year."

Brown has averaged roughly 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Richfield this season and is starting to attract more interest from programs in power Division I conferences, including ISU, Minnesota, UCLA, Wisconsin, Texas A&M and Northwestern.

According to his AAU coach, Brown is a prolific scorer that should be able to contribute early in his college career.

"He's a scorer," Thornton said. "This kid can put points on the board. He reminds me of a Steve Smith with a better jump shot off the dribble. He can create his own shot. Steve Smith could hit that shot once it's swung back to him and was a good passer, but Ray is a scorer that can get his own shot.

"Iowa State struggles scoring in spurts and a lot of it's because of foul trouble with the bigs. They need somebody to replace Jake (Sullivan) – a shooter with some size and the confidence to be where Coach Morgan wants him to be."

ISU appears to be in great shape with Brown, as the instate Gophers struggle through a winless Big 10 season under Monson. The shooting guard has already been on campus for unofficial visits twice and developed a rapport with each member of Wayne Morgan's staff.

"He really likes the whole coaching staff and Wayne Morgan's style," Thornton said. "He's more of a laid back kind of coach, but knows how to get his point across when he wants to get something done. The other factor in him liking Iowa State is there is some chance for immediate playing time in a major conference, with them having a couple guards there and pretty much having to start over. His dad can come to see him play. All of those factors really intrigue him."

Thornton said a couple of factors will decide whether Brown gets more national notice this summer.

"One thing he probably needs to work on is his strength and finish around the basket," Thornton said. "He's really athletic and can almost get to the basket at will because of his jump shot. He has a lot of nice dribble-drive moves, shot fakes and head fakes. Over the next year strength will be something for him to focus on, and maybe improving his shot selection.

"He's so confident that he gets careless and shoot up a couple shots he shouldn't have taken. You make two or three in a row and you don't think you can miss any. But his dad really did a great job with him when he was younger, showing him how to play the game. His basketball I.Q. is above average."

Brown is considered to be one of the top 75 juniors at this point, but Thornton said he could move into a top-50 ranking by the end of this summer.

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