- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
You can imagine what Brandi Brown must have been thinking during that awful, winless season of 2009-10 at Youngstown State: I came from California to Ohio for this?
But how Brown's career has turned out brings to mind Emily Dickinson's famed line: "To comprehend a nectar requires sorest need." It doesn't get much more "sore" than 0-30.
So securing a 20-win season with 42 points and 21 rebounds on your "appreciation" day is exceptionally sweet nectar for Brown. The fans, her teammates and her coach appreciate her. And she can truly appreciate where the Penguins are now in comparison to where they used to be.
The espnW player of the week, Brown is a case study in perseverance. After a freshman season that could have had a "Sesame Street" parody tagline -- "This hellish season has been brought to you by the letter L" -- Brown embraced a new coach and new instructions as a sophomore. And she has flourished ever since.
Bob Boldon saw a post player with the talent to be a perimeter shooter. She just needed to be given some instruction and the green light. Brown took it from there.
The 5-foot-11 senior forward from Pomona, Calif., went from zero attempts from behind the arc her first season to making 117 of 375 over the past three years. That includes 46 treys so far this season, when she's averaging 21.3 points and 11.8 rebounds.
In Thursday's 79-66 victory over Illinois-Chicago, Brown had 39 points and 13 rebounds. But that was still just the warm-up act for Saturday, which was "Brandi Brown Appreciation Day" at Beeghly Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
Brown's career-high 42 points in the 64-54 victory over Wright State were the most by any Youngstown State player since 2000, and ranks as the fifth-best single-game scoring performance in school history.
Plus, this was a day when getting exactly half as many rebounds as you have points was nothing short of spectacular.
"I think it's been a pretty good week," Brown said, which also gives her the unofficial espnW "understatement of the week" award. "I've been pretty motivated, and I'm trying to stay aggressive. I know my time here isn't forever."
It probably felt like forever during those 30 losses in 2009-10. Boldon came in and helped Youngstown State improve to 6-24, and then 10-20 last season. (Editor's note: espnW columnist Graham Hays chronicled the turnaround in a blog last week.)
Now, Brown and the Penguins have a chance to go into the Horizon League tournament with 22 victories. They face Valparaiso on Monday, and finish the regular season at Detroit on Thursday.
Green Bay is still the Horizon League's Goliath at 14-0. The Phoenix will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament, which is March 11-17 on campus sites for the first two rounds, with the semis and final at the highest remaining seed. The Penguins already have lost twice to Green Bay.
Even so, this season has been a triumph for Brown, who went through the worst times to make it to the best.
"That kid's awesome," Boldon said after her highlight-reel game Saturday. "She scored in the post, she got offensive-rebound stick-backs, she drove the ball, she made 3s."
Then he joked, "She missed a pull-up jump shot. I guess we'll work on that tomorrow."
Hard work and an open mind to learn new things have been the cornerstones of Brown's success.
"She's just a tremendous person she goes to class, does well academically," Boldon said. "When I got here, Brandi was a low-post player who was good. And the first thing I told her was, 'We're going to change your game completely.' And it was like, 'OK.' There hasn't been an ounce of resistance. She's the most wonderful kid I've ever coached in my life."
Danielle Ballard, LSU: The freshman had 14 points and 10 rebounds in LSU's win Thursday over Alabama and 15 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday's upset of No. 13 Texas A&M.
Maggie Lucas, Penn State: The Lady Lions' guard hit a career-high eight 3-pointers to score 34 points in Sunday's win over Nebraska, which clinched the Big Ten regular-season title.