Though certainly a significant catch in a sterling recruiting class, Bruce Brown did not come to Miami as the Hurricanes’s most-heralded recruit. That recognition went to forward Dewan Huell, only the fourth McDonald’s All-American in program history.
But the 6-5 guard with the effervescent and always present smile, who spent the last two seasons at Vermont Academy in Saxton’s River after starring in football and basketball for two years at Wakefield (Massachusetts) High, is wasting little time in making his presence felt.
After getting his first collegiate start in the Hurricanes’ third game of the season early in November, Brown earned honors as ACC Freshman of the Week for his play (23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) in Miami’s wins over Penn and Wofford last week, then topped that by putting his name in the school record book with just the program’s second triple-double ever in Tuesday night’s 82-46 rout of South Carolina State.
Brown scored 11 points, snatched 11 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in 30 minutes for what he later said was his first triple-double ever at any level. It was a first for his coach, too. Jim Larranaga said he couldn’t recall any player he has had in his 33-year coaching career who had achieved the feat.
“The thing that’s most impressive to me is he had nine rebounds at the half,” Larranaga said. “He’s a terrific rebounder, and he’s a guard and he’s handling the ball like a point guard now so he’s getting an opportunity to create some shots for other people.”
Brown is No. 2 on the team in assists to junior point guard Ja’Quan Newton with 26 assists to Newton’s 35, is the No. 3 scorer with a 10.0 average, and the No. 2 rebounder with a 6.8 average to senior forward Kamari Murphy’s 8.2.
Brown was told at halftime of the S.C. State game that he was four assists away from getting to double digits, and after he got his seventh he starting thinking seriously of the possibility of actually getting a triple-double during a media timeout in the second half.
“I went to Coach L and I said, ‘Please don’t take me out until I get three more assists and then one more point,” he said.
He got his 10th rebound at the 12:18 mark of the second half after spending a couple of minutes on the bench. He reached double digits in scoring with a dunk at the 10:55 mark giving him his 11 points, and the final assist came on a pass to another freshman, guard DJ Vasiljevic, for a 3-pointer with 2:59 remaining in the game.
“It was a very emotional day for me today,” Brown said. “My uncle actually passed away this morning. So the game today was for him. I played every possession like it was my last.”
Edward Dillard, an uncle on his mother’s side, passed after a some time in a coma.
“He was watching,” Brown said. “He was watching.”
It was appropriate the final points on his final assist should come on a 3-pointer from Vasiljevic, also a freshman guard who Larranaga calls Brown’s sidekick.
“He finds him pretty regularly,” the coach said.
But it wasn’t that assist that caught Larranaga’s attention.
“I thought the best pass that he threw was when he penetrated and got up in the air and dumped it off left-handed to Ebuku Izundu for a dunk,” Larranaga said. “That was really, really nice. I think he actually did a little look-away, which in that particular case worked very efficiently.
“Normally, when a guy looks away, he actually fakes the guy he’s passing to out because he doesn’t think he is passing to him. And the pass is not as accurate. But he did a terrific job with that.”
Vasiljevic, on the other hand, was expecting a pass from his running mate.
Said Brown: “We talked before and I said if I give it to you, shoot it, and he said, ‘I’m going to shoot it.’ And as soon as he made it, I was so happy.”
The basket gave Vasiljevic a game and career high 17 points in 25 minutes off the bench.
“I’ll do anything for Bruce, as I’ve said in past interviews,” the Aussie said. “When I hit that shot, I knew it was emotional for him, but also for me, with his uncle passing away. The shot meant something to me also, not just to him but also to myself and the team. I’m proud he got the triple double.”
Brown’s name now goes into the Miami record book alongside that of former center Anthony King, who recorded the program’s first triple-double over 12 years ago. They’re tough to come. Kentucky, the winningest program in college basketball history, got just its second late last month when De’Aaron Fox had 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for the Wildcats in a win over Arizona State.
“For guards they don’t normally rebound as well, and for big guys, they normally don’t get as many assists,” Larranaga said. “So it’s rare you have a player, Russell Westbrook for example, who has the ball in his hands, he’s going to score, but he finds people, but he’s also a terror on the backboards. He’s had six consecutive double-doubles. If Bruce does that, then you’ll really be saying something.”
King’s triple-double for Miami featured a school-record 13 blocked shots to go with 11 points, 10 rebounds, in an 84-68 win over Florida Atlantic on Nov. 29, 2004.
A reporter asked Brown what was left for an encore after following up the ACC honors he had received with the triple-double.
“I have no idea,” he said, still smiling. “I’m just going to go out there and play every play like it’s my last.”