Len'Nique Brown: A Transfer Tale To NC State
- Name: Len'Nique Brown
- Age: 22
- Organization: NC State, Wagner High School
Author: Patrick Kinas, DNAOfSports.com creator.
(Photo: Len'Nique Brown. Courtesy: Greg Mintel.)
Lake Johnson Park.
That's the peaceful bridge where she goes to ponder life. It's a stone’s throw from NC State’s campus, but 2,600 miles away from where she began her twisting college basketball career. She’s had three head coaches in five years. She’s been dealt strong hands. She’s been dealt weak hands. But for fifth-year senior Len'Nique Brown, she continues to play each hand to win - regardless of the cards - as the months quickly wind down on her college time.
Brown nearly avoided all of these hassles and headaches leaving Wagner High in San Antonio, Texas. However, the shell game that is college recruiting left Brown scrambling to the west coast instead of the east.
Former NC State head coach Kellie Harper, along with former assistant Richard Barron were responsible for recruiting the Lone Star State heavily when Harper overtook the program. Several heralded recruits from Texas were committed to coming to NC State, and Brown was getting strong looks from the Wolfpack. But in the era of equitable scholarships in the women’s game, along with deeper pools of quality players, Harper had to make a choice with the scholarship she had remaining for the future point guard at NC State.
“Coach Kellie offered Myisha (Goodwin) instead,” Brown recalled.
So instead of following fellow Texans to NC State, Brown followed the sparkle, the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Brown was off to USC.
The Trojans were coached by former Showtime shooter Michael Cooper of the Los Angeles Lakers. Cooper played with Magic, Kareem and the other NBA superstars who made the Forum the place for all of the Hollywood stars want to be – courtside for a Lakers game.
But Brown wasn’t recruited by Cooper. Ervin Monier was responsible for bringing Brown into the Trojans’ fold, but after Brown had signed her LOI at USC, Monier, along with another Trojans' assistant, was fired. The Trojans were coming off a 19-12 season, one where Monier was the acting head coach down the stretch as Cooper finished up his head coaching duties in the WNBA with the Los Angeles Sparks.
The firing caught Brown off guard, and immediately put her on edge.
“Coop hadn’t seen me, but when he fired Coach Monier, he told me that I have a chance to get out of this (commitment to USC), but I still want you.”
Brown was already feeling uneasy as the season began, but willed her way through the non-conference portion of the schedule, which included a cross-country trip to Raleigh to play Kellie Harper’s NC State Wolfpack, with Myisha Goodwin cutting her teeth as a freshman back-up point guard.
Brown came off the bench to spark the Trojans past NC State 84-75, scoring eight points, pulling down four rebounds and dishing out one assist in just 13 minutes. Goodwin, whom Harper chose over Brown the previous year on the recruiting trail, was held scoreless.
Brown was torn. The Christmas holiday was fast approaching, the semester was over, and the window for mid-season transfers was quickly closing.
“I was talking to my parents at Christmas, and my mom told me ‘If you want out, get out now.’ But I’m not the type to quit on something, so I stuck it out.”
The Trojans played deep into March, falling in the NIT championship game against Toledo.
When the season was done, Cooper held the year-end individual meetings with the players.
“At our meeting, Coop gives me the depth chart for the next season, and he puts me as the fourth point guard. He told me that our starting point guard was first, then an incoming freshman was next who hadn’t even put a jersey in college on yet (Ariya Crook-Williams, ranked as the #2 PG in the country), with a combo two-guard who could play point was next. Then me.“
Fourth on the chart meant Len'Nique would be lucky to get a couple of minutes a game. If she was still feeling unsure about USC, now Brown had to make a choice.
“I’m not about the minutes, but if don’t deserve to be on the court, I can accept it. But he didn’t give me the chance. I went home that night and thought. I could sit and fight about it, but I’ve already lost from beginning. Two days later, I went back to Coop and said I’m gone."
To this day, Brown recalls what Cooper told her before she left.
(Len)'Nique, if no one else ever believes in you, believe in yourself.
“I don’t hate the guy,” Brown said. “I think he’s a good coach, but he wasn’t the right coach for me.”
The Call, The Transfer, Then An Unexpected Change
“Sometimes you don’t get second chances,” Brown said.
“I knew I was given a second chance. Coach Kellie had recruited me before. My AAU coach contacted Kellie, and next thing I knew, I was at NC State.”
“I had to sit out, learn the offense and get a base – a foundation – at State.”
After one long year of practicing, conditioning and strength training, Brown was finally on the court playing her redshirt-sophomore year for Harper. Brown’s gazelle quickness astonished Wolfpack fans and gave them a glimpse into what her future could hold at Reynolds.
“I was just getting my feet wet with a base with Coach Harper, my first time with my base with one coach, and then... ,” Brown said with her voice trailing off.
Harper was gone.
Enter current head coach Wes Moore.
And yet another transition began for Brown, who was now playing for her third head coach in four strange years.
“He’s the only coach I’ve played for two years,” Brown said. “It’s helped me. In life, obstacles are always thrown your way. Things don’t always turn out the way you want it to. I’ve learned to take the good in all situations.”
“This year, the season is not going our way at all. This isn’t what I expected my senior year, but we’ve had injury after injury. It’s been rough.”
There is still time to salvage the post-season for Brown, one of just two seniors on the squad. Fellow Texan Krystal Barrett’s final season ended prematurely in December with an ACL tear.
NC State, sitting 4-6 in the ACC could claim an outside shot at the NCAAs with seven conference wins, but an NIT berth at this stage is the more realistic bet as the season enters its final three weeks.
For Brown, she’s hoping for any post-season after a NIT final appearance at USC and an NCAA bid last year at NC State. Brown would love one more for the road.
Looking Back & Brown’s Future
For a career that began a couple of miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Brown has fit in perfectly in Raleigh.
“I’ve spent four years here,” Brown reflected. “I love the people here. Everyone welcomes you. The fans engage in conversations with us whether we’re winning or losing. They’ve been here since Day One. It’s like family.”
With a sport management degree already in hand, Brown is working on her master’s in family youth development, but still has an eye on basketball.
“The WNBA is a hope of mine, but that’s a league full of scoring point guards. I’m not big, but I’m fast. I can use that to my advantage best I can. If given the opportunity, I’d like to play overseas.”
As for the Wolfpack’s premier point guard, she wouldn’t rule out a return to the sideline in a coaching capacity, just not the complex job she’s seen filled by Cooper, Harper and Moore.
“I want to coach, but not be a head coach,” Brown said. “There are bucks there, but a lot of headaches. At this point of time in my life, that’s what I’d like. If I work my way up, then maybe. But right now, I want to be more like what (assistant) Coach (Gene) Hill is, where he works with the guards and recruits.”
As the clock ticks down on Brown’s final season with NC State, she’s savoring every moment, trying not to think too long about what she’ll miss.
Except for readily admitting one thing she knows she’ll miss when she leaves Raleigh.
“They don’t have Cook-Out in Texas.”Tweet
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