Brown Improves By Harnessing His Athleticism

Here's a no-brainer: Markel Brown is athletic. There has been plenty of evidence of his gifts as an athlete over the course of his two years at Oklahoma State, but he's seen his productivity rise in recent weeks by trying not to use it.

Allow for clarification: the sophomore guard, no doubt a gifted athlete, used to rely on his speed and quickness to generate scoring opportunities. Now he's developed the other aspects of his game to a point where he can exercise patience, read the defense and use his athleticism as a means to his production, rather than his primary source.

And because of the those changes he's become what his friend and teammate Michael Cobbins lovingly describes as this team's "silent assassin."

"What he's doing is what we always thought he was capable of doing. He can pass, he can handle the ball, he can shoot it a little bit; he can do some things but he's doing them with good flow," coach Travis Ford said. "He has a pace to his game, he's not forcing things as much as he was two months ago and not relying on his ability to jump by people or over people ... I mean, he's still having some nice plays like that."

That last part is a pretty substantial understatement. Because of the fact Brown is playing a more controlled style of basketball, he's creating more opportunities for dynamic plays because his game has developed structure and rhythm.

He used to try to manufacture those opportunities by attacking the lane at 100 miles per hour; now he's sitting back and allowing those opportunities to present themselves before he explodes toward the goal.

As a result, Brown has earned his way onto ESPN's Top 10 plays on three occasions in the past three games for highlight reel dunks.

The dunks are certainly nice but it's his production overall that has given the Cowboys a jolt they needed.

The adjustments Brown has made have paid off in bunches for the Cowboys in recent weeks. Take his 11-assist performance at Iowa State for an example or his 30-point explosion in a blowout of Texas Tech for another.

"I think (the turnaround) might have been from the sense of knowing we were down a couple people and we needed people to step up so I felt like I could be one of those guys," Brown said. "I guess I kind of kicked it up a notch."

Again, understatement.

The 49 points Brown has scored in the Cowboys' past two games are more than he scored scored over a nine-game span from Dec. 7 to Jan. 9 combined.

His season averages are 10 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and two assists. His shooting percentages are 43 percent from the field, 73.9 from the free-throw line and 31 from 3.

In the past five games — starting with his debut at point guard against Iowa State — Brown's averages are noticeably improved.

Since the ISU game, Brown is averaging 16 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. His shooting percentages are even more telling at 51 from the field, 96 from the line and 50 from 3.

Also take into account that those five games are averaged in to his initial stats, so the impact is even greater than these indicate.

That said, the transition started against the Cyclones when Brown started handling the ball more and having a major role in dictating the flow and pace of the offense, rather than sitting back and playing off the ball.

He's not sure if handling the ball more is the main reason but he's certainly seen the difference.

"Maybe, that could be true," Brown said. "Ever since I've started to have the ball in my hand more I feel like I've been able to do a lot more productive things helping the team out whether it's passing or scoring."

"I feel like I could get used to it. It doesn't always have to be a scoring thing for me. I like finding my teammates and getting them opportunities to score. I like it all."

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