Brown making a significant impact amid point guard questions


Entering this season, the No. 17 Michigan women’s basketball team was still looking for a true point guard. It needed a player to squarely establish herself as the leader and facilitator of the offense, a crucial role for any team.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico acknowledged at Michigan Media Day on Oct. 25 that there was a group of Wolverines who would split time at the spot, presenting an opportunity for one player to “​​earn it … grab it … and run with it.”

Through seven games, though, no one candidate has run away with the position. It doesn’t look like anyone has fully claimed the spot yet, with new rotations and lineups still being tested out. But one player has stood out, influencing the game on both sides of the ball:

Leigha Brown.

At the Gulf Coast Showcase this past weekend, the fifth-year wing made a significant impact in almost every facet of the game. Against South Florida in the semifinals on Saturday, Brown led the team in both points and assists with 23 and four, respectively. In the championship game against No. 21 Baylor, she tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and a team-high six assists.

Not only did Brown rack up impressive numbers throughout the tournament, but she came up clutch when Michigan needed it most. In the final four minutes against Baylor — with a tournament title on the line in a back-and-forth matchup — she put up four points, two offensive rebounds, two assists and a game-changing block.

“(Brown) was so amazing this whole tournament,” Barnes Arico said. “She has a great feel for the game and a great understanding, and I told our team after I think the most impressive thing that she’s done over these three days is give our team an unbelievable amount of confidence.”

That ability to spur confidence in her teammates is one of Brown’s foremost qualities as a leader. Coupled with her passing and shooting skills, she is a force to be reckoned with on the court.

“(Brown is) just playing better and better,” Barnes Arico said after the Fairfield game on Nov. 20. “(She’s) getting more and more comfortable (and) getting in better shape, (she’s) such a great passer.”

With Brown establishing herself as a standout leader and passer, it begs the question: Why hasn’t she secured the point guard spot?

The answer seems to be fairly complicated.

Not only is Brown one of the best passers — if not the best — on the team, but she’s also an effective shooter. Confining her to a true point guard position may hinder her ability to score from the wing, where she can be especially dangerous.

Additionally, at Michigan Media Day, Barnes Arico mentioned senior guard Michelle Sidor and sophomore guard Greta Kampschroeder as two of the players who would be in the rotation up top. However, Sidor has been out with an injury since the exhibition game and Kampschroeder, a transfer from Oregon State, looks like she’s still adjusting in her first season as a Wolverine.

With Sidor confined to the bench and Kampschroeder yet to hit her stride in the maize and blue, Michigan hasn’t been able to see the best of either player at the point thus far. Barnes Arico has been coy throughout the early stretch of Michigan’s season as to whether there is any more clarity about the status of the position, and her answers have suggested that the spot is still up for grabs.

After the Fairfield game, she said it was a “work in progress” for everyone competing and acknowledged that Sidor hasn’t been able to prove herself yet.

After the tournament championship win over Baylor, she danced around the question, laughing while recognizing that Brown “did a pretty good job” at the ‘1’.

But regardless of the questions still surrounding the position, Brown has proved herself as a valuable asset to the team — through both her personal performance and her ability to make her teammates better.

With or without the point guard label, she has made her presence felt all over the court.



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