Bruce Weber is ready to give his pregame speech to the Kansas State basketball team, but he can’t start just yet.
As much as the coach would like to begin going over his final keys to victory and start firing up the Wildcats with some inspirational words, it would be foolish for him to say anything until Barry Brown is in the locker room.
When will that be? Good question. Everyone else on K-State’s roster is present and accounted for, but Brown is still out on the court shooting free throws. His teammates quit warming up a few minutes ago, but Brown won’t leave until his shot feels perfect. Weber’s speech will have to wait.
“Coach gets impatient with him sometimes,” K-State guard Mike McGuirl said. “He will be standing in front of us ready to talk right before the game and just start screaming ‘Where the heck is Barry! Someone get Barry in here!’ The other coaches have to remind him he’s still out there shooting.”
This scene was perhaps captured best during K-State’s final game of the Big 12 Tournament last week at Sprint Center. Iowa State and K-State players departed the court about 10 minutes before opening tip, but Brown stayed to shoot free throws. It seemed strange for many in the crowd who weren’t accustomed to his pregame quirks.
Brown likes to make four consecutive free throws, a layup and a three-pointer before he leaves for the locker room. Actually, he demands it from himself, even if it takes him a few extra minutes to get all the shots to fall. He is the ultimate perfectionist in this situation.
“I don’t know why I picked that combination, but that’s what I like to do,” Brown said. “It just makes me feel comfortable about my shot and gives me an extra boost of confidence heading into each game.”
A packed crowd at Sprint Center watched as he finished off his pregame ritual with a swished three-pointer and cheered when he finally left for the locker room.
“Every player has their routine and it is important not to break away from that before any game,” McGuirl said. “Most of us aren’t as committed to it as Barry, but it obviously works for him.”
It’s easy to understand why. Brown’s pregame routine is a microcosm of the type of player he has become as a senior for the Wildcats.
Brown he has evolved into one of the best players in K-State history. He is currently averaging 14.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Wildcats, but he is arguably even more valuable on defense.
Earlier this season, he was chosen Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
How did an unheralded freshman turn out to be a celebrated senior? Two words: hard work.
“His commitment to keep going when we told him to stop is what set him apart,” K-State associate coach Chris Lowery said. “We will tell him, ‘Barry, that is enough for today,’ and he is back an hour later. ‘No Barry, that is enough.’ Then he leaves and comes back. ‘Barry, that is enough.’ He keeps coming back.
“His ability to continuously work at what he needs to get better at is unbelievable. He’s not great at anything, but he is really good in a lot of things on both sides of the ball. That takes some dedication.”
Brown has proven his work ethic countless times over the years, but he can sum up all of his efforts during his pregame routine.
It’s more than shooting quirks. He insists on being the first player on the court for warmups and the last player in the locker room. So much so that he changes into his uniform before he leaves for games so he can go straight from the bus to the court. He insists on wearing purple sweat pants and his K-State jersey. He rocks out to a pregame playlist on a wireless headset. And it can seem like he puts up more shots than the rest of his teammates combined.
“We have a lot of hard workers on our team, but I will tell you Barry Brown is in the gym every day, all day, watching film getting up shots, it doesn’t matter,” K-State forward Austin Trice said. “His pregame routine shows how hard his work ethic is. He is out there on the court before the game before everyone else. He shows up at the arena and he is already dressed. His work ethic is tremendous.”
Brown likes to downplay his pregame routine as much as possible. Maybe it’s weird that he spends more than an hour on the court before opening tip. Perhaps it’s strange he won’t stop until he’s made that perfect final shot.
It’s what he’s been doing since his senior year of high school, and he’s not about to stop now.
“It’s just him trying to make himself ready,” Lowery said. “He wants to make sure that everything that goes into us winning is perfect in his mind. That’s why he is good. He’s a workaholic, he’s a go-getter, he’s all the clichés you say about a kid who has worked at it and had success. He has transcended that success and become an icon for us.”
Brown has turned into a leader.
While the Wildcats have had to get by without Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade at various times over the past four years, Brown has been an iron man and played in 138 straight games. As long as they have him, they feel like they have a chance.
When Wade missed the NCAA Tournament last year, Brown led the charge to the Elite Eight.
“Barry has been as good a leader as anyone I’ve been with in my 40 years,” Weber said.
Brown hopes to do something similar starting at 1 p.m. Friday against UC Irvine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with Wade once again sidelined because of a foot injury.
Weber is confident Brown can do exactly that. He always expects big things from him.
He is the type of player worth delaying a pregame speech for.