When senior guard Darrell Brown graduates from Bradley this May, his fingerprints will be everlasting on Bradley men’s basketball history.
His list of accolades – Missouri Valley all-freshman team, two time all-conference, 2019 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Champion – is impressive, but perhaps his most impressive achievement is still in progress.
Throughout the 2019-20 season, Brown has ascended to seventh place on the program all-time scoring list with 1,746 points. Brown has climbed over legendary names to the likes of Walt Lemon Jr., Anthony Parker, Gene “Squeaky” Melchiorre and Marcellus Sommerville in the process.
When it comes to gameplay, Brown said he doesn’t pay attention to the list.
“Just honestly being myself and coming in day in and day out and being aggressive and being the player I know I am, and as long as I do that, I mean, the scoring will take care of itself,” Brown said.
Being aggressive isn’t something that has just led Brown to points, but also assists. He ranks fifth on the school’s all-time assist list as well. The only other Brave to crack the top-10 on both lists is Hersey Hawkins, who played 12 seasons in the NBA.
Despite his climb into the ranks of BU lore, one of Brown’s main goals for his final season in red and white doesn’t have anything to do with filling up the bucket.
“I think more this senior year, I’m really dedicated to being just a better teammate more than anything, as far as myself,” Brown said. “We’ve done so many things many people don’t get a chance to do in their college careers, so I mean just being a great teammate to the younger players and the new guys here, just letting them know what it takes to win and how they can win a championship.”
One of those younger guys is freshman guard Antonio Thomas, a fellow Memphis native. Thomas is of similar stature to Brown and both play point guard, but their relationship goes well beyond playing the same position.
The two have known each other since Brown was in eighth grade and Thomas was in the sixth grade, and they have played against each other and worked out together in Memphis since then. Brown played a big role in recruiting Thomas to Bradley, and Brown has continued to work with the freshman.
“DB has helped a lot since I’ve been here,” Thomas said. “I’ve just been learning from him for years, and his experience on the college level doing what he’s been doing, top-10 in scoring, has just helped me a lot. He’s been like a big brother to me.”
The players’ tight-knit relationship has allowed Brown to have high expectations for his freshman counterpart and hold him accountable as a result.
“Besides the coaching staff, Darrell’s the hardest person that’s been on me that’s on the team,” Thomas said. “Anything that I slack on, he’s making me pick up on it, like, he looks out for me. He continues to just be on my behind, make sure I do the right thing, because like coach said, he wants me to carry on his legacy once he leaves.”
“Darrell feels like he can hold Antonio accountable because they’re so close,” Braves’ head coach Brian Wardle said. “They know each other, and [Antonio] knows he cares about him, and [Darrell] is doing it out of the goodness of his heart.”
Brown’s desire to share his knowledge with Thomas and other players has grown into leadership similar to that of a coach.
When Brown missed back to back games with a leg injury on Jan. 22 and Jan. 25, the senior guard contributed off the court by pointing out defensive and offensive patterns and tendencies he noticed from the sidelines in practice and game action. This led Wardle to address him as “Coach Brown” during practice while he was sidelined, and the nickname stuck upon his return. The title fits the veteran guard, who is known inside the locker room for his high basketball IQ.
“He has a very good eye for the game and IQ. So, share that knowledge, we say, be a professor on the floor, teach to help share it with these young guys and these newcomers, because they don’t know because they don’t have that experience,” Wardle said.
Brown doesn’t deny his newfound nickname.
“I definitely coach some of the younger guys, a bunch of them look up to me,” Brown said. “Just leading by example has been one of my biggest things since I’ve been here. Even when I was younger, just knowing I could set an example by my actions, besides talking and stuff like that.”
Brown admits that his vocal presence hasn’t been the best throughout his career, but his communication has come along from where it was early in his time at Bradley. Wardle has certainly taken note.
“Every year he’s improved,” Wardle said. “I know he had to get out of his comfort zone to do, so I give him a lot of credit. A lot of people don’t want to get out of their comfort zone and work on some things that might not be natural to them, but Darrell has improved. He’s worked hard on it.”
According to Wardle, Brown’s improved communication has been invaluable to the team recently.
“Down the stretch here, it’s probably been the best I’ve ever seen of him,” Wardle said. “He’s very vocal, but he’s very smart … so the things he says, I always want the players to listen to … Anytime your seniors are vocal down the stretch, it’s big for your team.”
As Brown’s final MVC slate hits the home stretch, he’s focused on going out on a winning note, but also setting the precedent of being a hard worker for the future of the program.
“Just be yourself and work hard, that’ll always help you out, regardless of it you talk, whatever you do, just a bunch of hard work, be true to yourself, stay true to the program and listen,” Brown said. “Don’t think you know it all, and I think those are the biggest things that I’ve shared with the guys here and their talent and skills speak for themselves.”
Of all his accolades, Brown simply wants his legacy to be one of a winner.
“Just knowing that Darrell was a winner, I think I’d say that’s the biggest thing I wanted for my legacy,” Brown said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve increased our win total every year so I mean, that speaks for itself.”
After climbing the scoring list, piling up accolades and leading the Braves to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 13 seasons, the hard-nosed point guard already has done a lot of work on building his legacy at Bradley.
Other than going out on a high-note, there’s just one more box to check, according to No. 5:
“Hopefully we can retire this jersey one day.”