COLUMBIA — It’s rare for Missouri junior shooting guard Jabari Brown to raise his voice.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Brown has a deep, almost raspy, bass-filled voice, but he’s a naturally quiet guy, Tigers coach Frank Haith said.
Of course, that’s also something Haith needed to see change. For the team’s sake, he wanted Brown break out of his shell and challenged him to become more vocal, to seize a leadership role.
“When your best player, or one of your best players, starts to accept that role and express that to his teammates, how important it is to do things the right way, it helps your team,” Haith said. “I’ve wanted him to be more of that guy, and he’s starting to do that better.”
Haith has noticed Brown put his arm around freshman Wes Clark after a scolding and witnessed him taking charge of the players’ huddle during timeouts.
It wasn’t always easy — after all, it goes against Brown’s nature — but he accepted Haith’s challenge.
“It’s just a matter of doing it every day,” Brown said. “Some days, you might not feel like it, but you’ve just got to remember that it’s your role on the team. I’ve been trying to do that and, since I’ve been doing it more, it’s becoming easier.”
Along the way, a funny thing seems to have happened: As Brown’s voice has raised, so has the level of his play going into today’s 3 p.m. game against South Carolina in Columbia.
During the last seven games, Brown, a native of Oakland, Calif., who transferred from Oregon two years ago, has averaged 21 points, including back-to-back career highs against Alabama (24) and at LSU (28).
“Jabari’s playing at an unbelievable level and, knock on wood, because his numbers are ridiculous for a perimeter player what he’s doing,” Haith said.
Brown is shooting 48 of 88 from the field, a 54.5-percent clip, and 50 percent from three-point range, going 21 of 42, during that seven-game stretch.
Since scoring a season-low 10 points against Illinois, Brown has pumped in 147 points on only 88 shots with just 11 turnovers in 253 minutes.
Patience has been the key — both for his production and leadership.
Against LSU, Brown didn’t attempt a shot in the first 8 minutes, 7 seconds. He’s mature enough not to force shots and prefers to let the game come to him.
“I went back and looked at all my shot attempts from last year and tried to tell myself that this year — I knew I was going to take more shots, so I wanted to take quality shots and not just try to shoot a lot more because the team was going to need me, too,” Brown said.
Brown took a similar approach to emerging as a team leader, allowing it to come gradually rather than forcing himself to become a leader.
“I wouldn’t say force, just make a conscious effort of doing it,” Brown said. “Not worrying just about myself, but worrying about other guys, whereas in the past I didn’t have to do that, because we had other leaders on the team.”
Of course, it all only goes so far for the even-keeled Brown, who isn’t about to become a shirt-popping, smack-talking glory hound anytime soon.
“Your play does enough talking,” Brown said. “I might say something here or there, but I feel like, at the end of the game, the stats don’t lie. I just try to play hard and play levelheaded. … It feels good playing like I’m playing right now. I just want to keep it up and, hopefully, it’ll help turn into some wins.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.