J’Covan Brown is fearless.
So when it came to the Longhorns being down by one point with two seconds remaining against then-No. 8 Connecticut, Rick Barnes knew exactly who he wanted making the inbounds pass.
“When you play this game, you can’t be afraid,” Brown said. “Sometimes you will turn the ball over, sometimes you won’t.”
In the midst of his best offensive performance of the season, J’Covan Brown went to the huddle during a time-out with only two seconds remaining in overtime and his team down by one to Connecticut.
During the discussion, Brown let head coach Rick Barnes know that he wanted the ball. Not to take the final shot, but to make the inbounds pass.
With a season-high 20 points from seven of 14 shooting and two late clutch free-throws to send the game into overtime, Brown stood from the sideline a few feet inside the half-court line. After looking for a double-teamed Jordan Hamilton, Brown found Cory Joseph across the court who missed the final shot in an 82-81 loss to then-No. 8 UConn on Jan. 8 at the Frank Erwin Center.
Even if Brown hadn’t asked Barnes to take the final inbounds pass, he still would have been assigned to it.
“He’s not afraid to throw it. He’s not afraid,” Barnes said after the UConn game. “You’ve got to have somebody that’s willing to pull the trigger and he’s not afraid to the throw the ball. That’s probably more important than the guy that’s going to catch and shoot it.”
Not only is Brown not afraid to make a risky pass, take a final shot — which he did at the end of regulation that clanked off the rim — or be at the free throw line when the game is on the line, he isn’t scared of anything.
Not spiders, not the dark, not even heights. Or at least, he claims.
His fearless mentality comes from growing up on “the streets” of Port Arthur. Crime is common in Port Arthur and it is easy to get involved.
“When you are outside on the streets, there are only two things you can do: play basketball or be a drug dealer,” Brown said. “I tried to never get involved with the outside life. When I bumped my head a couple times, I knew this was not the type of life I wanted to live.”
Brown realized that basketball was his ticket out of Port Arthur. He saw how current NBA player Stephen Jackson and his cousin, former Longhorn B.J. Tyler, were able to get out of that region of Southeast Texas and become stars.
Brown quickly became a star in high school after transferring to Port Arthur’s Memorial High School.
But in his senior year, Brown hit one of those bumps. Only a few games into the season, Brown received a technical foul in the first half of a game in which he did not return. To make things worse, he removed his jersey and exited the gym with less than a minute left in the game that his team lost. Brown was later suspended for the remainder of
To add insult to injury, Brown was unable to enroll at Texas following high school because of academic problems and not much later his Uncle Jeffrey, who is responsible for discovering the name J’Covan, passed away.
“That was a turning point for my life right there,” Brown said. “When that happened, I asked God for another chance, and I told him I would never mess it up again.”
His next chance involved him becoming academically eligible and allowing him to play in the 2009-10 season. In his freshman year, Brown began the season coming off the bench and finished the season in the starting rotation because of injuries to Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward.
With Balbay healthy again, Brown is back to the bench. Although he may start the game on the sideline, he has embraced the role of being the sixth man. Every game, Brown stands in front of his seat along the sideline yelling instructions and words of encouragement to those on the court. Until he is called to go into the game — usually three or four minutes into the game — Brown remains on his feet.
“Whatever it takes for my team to get rolling I’m going to do it,” Brown said. “I think my voice helps during the game. I’m trying to be that extra man to look at if everything’s not right.”
His teammates would agree. Well, at least the ones who are on the court. Others on the bench sometimes have difficulties seeing around Brown, but no one has confronted him about it yet.
“Yeah, it’s Coach J’Covan Brown. You know, one day he’s going to be a coach and he as all the traits to be one,” said freshman starter Tristan Thompson.
Part of this new attitude comes with Barnes not being satisfied with Brown’s body language at times last season.
“His body language was always about his insecurity and him being frustrated with himself,” Barnes said. “He gets disappointed because he’s one of those guys who thinks he can do it right every time.”
Though he was frustrated with himself, it didn’t help last season with the Longhorns losing 10 of its last 17 games.
“Last year, I didn’t get the whole body language part,” Brown said. “It’s a day-to-day process. It’s just a mental thing. I don’t try to get upset about too many things anymore.”
Instead, Brown has made sure to bring positive energy to the team.
“Coach [Barnes] always says a national championship team starts from a bench with everyone bringing energy,”
Brown has welcomed the role, maybe even a little too much, as referees have begun telling him to sit down.
But Brown isn’t afraid of the referees.