Can J'Covan Brown Carry the Load?

If there was one thing apparent from Texas coach Rick Barnes' comments at Big 12 Media Day, it's that the Longhorns will be putting a huge amount of faith in J'Covan Brown. Is it too much to expect a previous season's backup to become a star overnight? Not in the Big 12, where Brown's situation has precedence.

Take a look at the following numbers for a pair of backup players

Player A: 21.5 minutes per game, 10.4 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game, 2.1 assists per game. Used 24.5 percent of team's possessions when in the game, and 24.8 percent of its shots.

Player B: 23.8 minutes per game, 9.3 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game. Used 21.3 percent of possessions, and 21.6 percent of its shots.

Player A, you might have guessed, is Texas guard J'Covan Brown. Specifically, those are Brown's numbers from last year, when he served as the team's No. 3 guard and sixth man as a sophomore.

Player B? That's Sherron Collins. More specifically, those are his numbers from 2007-2008, when he was the Jayhawks' No. 3 guard and sixth man as a sophomore.

Why Collins? Well, for one thing, his situation nearly exactly mirrors that of Brown's. Offensively gifted, he played behind a defense-first point guard his first two seasons. Both have had struggles with weight. And, perhaps most importantly, both went into their junior seasons after losing all five starters from the previous year's team. And both returned only one other rotation player who played the season before — for Kansas it was fourth big-man Cole Aldrich, who earned 8.3 minutes per game, and for Texas, it's fourth big-man Alexis Wangmene, who played 9.6 minutes per game. Get this as well: both were essentially shooting guards in point guard bodies, and paired with true freshmen who were pass-first type players (Tyshawn Taylor for Collins, Myck Kabongo for Brown).

Of course, the rest of the Collins story is known. His minutes jumped to 35.1 minutes per game, and his stats went up accordingly. He scored 18.9 points per game, dished out five assists per game, used 28.0 percent of the Jayhawks' possessions and took 30.1 percent of the Jayhawks' shots. His field goal percentage dropped, but his three-point percentage went up and he drew free throws at a greater rate. Overall, he was a slightly more efficient player, going from a 107.1 Offensive Rating (according to Ken Pomeroy) to a 108.6 Offensive Rating.

So what does that mean for Brown? First, that there's a precedent for that level of success. But if Brown is going to get there, he's going to do it in different ways. First of all, Brown won't have the ball in his hands as much as Collins, so don't expect his assists to make that kind of a jump. And he won't have to create as much offense because he'll be able to get some looks from penetration and kick plays.

Brown already took a higher percentage of possessions and shots than Collins did, so he's less likely to run into the efficiency issues that often come from an increase in workload (note, again, that Collins' efficiency numbers went up, though his effective field goal percentage dropped three percentage points). Brown also gets his points in a slightly different manner (and a more efficient way, according to their sophomore years). He doesn't shoot as well inside the arc, but was a better three-point shooter than Collins was. And he's more effective at both drawing fouls, and at converting at the free throw line once he gets there.

The only concern about the latter part is that if he's taking more opportunities and going to the line more, you can wear your body down over the course of a year. But that's not something you worry about at this point.

So Brown does have some slight differences between he and Collins. But there are enough similarities to hope, and potentially even project, that he can make a similar kind of jump from a scoring and possession standpoint.

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