NC State sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown has flourished with increased playing time and responsibilities this season.
The 6-foot-5, 189-pounder from Roswell, Ga., is averaging 12.9 points, 6.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game for the 13-5 Wolfpack going into tonight's 8 p.m. home game against Boston College.
Brown leads the ACC in steals, is second in assists (seventh nationally) and ranks 15th in points per game. Brown sometimes gets loose with the basketball, but has limited his turnovers, standing third in the ACC with a 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Brown's unselfish nature has permeated throughout the squad. The Wolfpack ranks second in the ACC with 17.3 assists per game, trailing North Carolina by just 1.4.
"I've noticed that sometimes Scott Wood might give a head fake and pass it off to somebody else, and I've never seen Scott do that before," Brown said. "I think C.J. [Leslie] does the same thing by feeding the ball to Richard [Howell] in the post. That's a good feeling to have, having my teammates share the ball like that."
Brown was brilliant in the 76-40 dismantling of Wake Forest last Saturday. He shot 8 of 14 from the field, including 2 of 3 from three-point land, en route to 20 points. He added six assists, four steals and a rebound against the Demon Deacons.
Brown's play elevates when his outside shot is falling like it did against the Demon Deacons. He has improved his three-point shooting accuracy from 29.8 percent last year to 35.7 percent this season, and that in turn has made him more effective driving to the basket where he can either score or set up a teammate.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried said turnovers from dribbling upright is one of the main areas he has tried helping Brown improve upon this season.
"It's a day-by-day process with each guy, and like with him, after each game, we obviously break the tape down," Gottfried said. "There are things we want to talk to each player about, good and bad. Do you remember this play or that play? Lets talk about this and that, and decisions that you've made. It's a process that you do over and over again.
"It has been a work in progress, but he's been coachable so far."
Brown went through the usual ups and downs of being a freshman guard last year. He also had to learn how to play both guard positions while coexisting with former NC State point guards Javi Gonzalez and Ryan Harrow. The latter transferred to Kentucky following the season, but is still close friends with Brown. Harrow's mom, Fern Harrow, still regularly attends NC State home games with Brown's mother, Kim Banks.
"Ryan leaving really hurt me," Brown said. "He is now sitting out a year, and I didn't want to see him go, but things happen. We always talk, and he's just sitting back and watching guys play. He is learning a lot. I'm happy for him there.
"His mom comes to every game. She supports me just as much as she supports Ryan. Our family is staying close."
Brown knew from the day Harrow transferred that he was the clear-cut point guard again, just as he was at Roswell Centennial High for four years, and during his post-graduate year at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy.
"When you are the quarterback all the time, there is a different responsibility then when you play the point a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there," Gottfried said. "Now, you are responsible for our possessions and how our team plays offensively. Sometimes you get a lot of blame, but sometimes you get a lot of credit, too. It's part of the position. He never had that before."
Brown had some of his best games last year playing point guard. He posted 20 points and seven assists at North Carolina on Jan. 29, 2011, and filled out the stat sheet two games later with 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists at Duke on Feb. 5. He had only two turnovers apiece against the two ranked squads. Brown later added 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the rematch against the Tar Heels on Feb. 23.
"At the beginning, it was kind of frustrating because I didn't know everything a point guard is supposed to do," Brown said. "I'm still learning everything, but I've gotten more comfortable. I know that [fifth-year senior] Alex [Johnson] can come in and he's playing big minutes now like I do. I just feel more comfortable. High school was nothing like this."
Brown doesn't completely buy into the theory that he needs the ball in his hands to play his best basketball. He thinks Harrow's game could have meshed with his over time if they had remained teammates, but he does acknowledge there is some truth to that train of thought.
"I definitely agree with it," Brown said. "I've tried my hardest and watched a lot of film on guys to help me.
"We've been doing it [playing together] since we were 8 or 9 years old. We just didn't have that opportunity to use it the way we wanted to."
Brown is also taking advantage of the ACC losing some of its best guards to graduation or the NBA. Standouts such as Duke's Nolan Smith, Boston College's Reggie Jackson and Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert all went in the first round of the NBA Draft. Clemson's Demontez Stitt, Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney and Florida State's Derwin Kitchen were also among the top players in the league last year before moving on.
Brown could challenge for ACC honors in his first full year playing point guard.
"I'm more mature and I know the game [better]," Brown said. "Coach puts a lot of pressure on us to make the right decision. That is a big part right there."
Current Los Angeles Clippers point guard Mo Williams will likely always be the standard at the point guard position for Gottfried, who coached the former Jackson, Miss., standout for two years at Alabama. Gottfried admits he is particularly hard on his point guards compared to the other positions.
"My expectations are higher like when I had Mo [Williams] and Ronald Steele, and those guys," Gottfried said. "They are the extension of the head coach. They really are. If we have a bad possession offensively or somebody takes a bad shot, I blame the point guard. It is his fault."
Gottfried pointed out one other important aspect about Brown's play this season.
"He's excited about his role, too, and that always helps," Gottfried said.
Boston College preview
Boston College (7-10, 2-1 ACC) at NC State Wolfpack (13-5, 2-1 ACC)
Game time: Thursday, Jan. 19, 8 p.m. — RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
Television: ACC Network
PG — 2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 189, Soph., 12.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.9 spg)
SG — 21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 224, Sr., 12.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.2 spg)
SF — 15 Scott Wood (6-6, 175, Jr., 12.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF — 5 C.J. Leslie (6-8, 209, Soph., 12.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.0 bpg)
C — 1 Richard Howell (6-8, 250, Jr., 12.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PG — 10 Jordan Daniels (5-9, 153, Fr., 5.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SG — 20 Lonnie Jackson (6-3, 170, Fr., 7.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF — 14 Matt Humphrey (6-5, 192, Jr., 10.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg)
PF — 12 Ryan Anderson (6-8, 217, Fr., 9.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C — 24 Dennis Clifford (7-0, 241, Fr., 9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
Scouting Boston College
Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
2010-11 record: 21-13 overall, 9-7 ACC
2011 postseason: Lost 85-67 to Northwestern in the second round of the NIT Tournament
Coach: Steve Donahue 174-161 (10th year) and 28-23 at BC (2nd year)
Series: Boston College leads 8-3
Last meeting: Boston College won 75-66 on Jan. 11, 2011, in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Boston College: Boston College fields one of the youngest rosters in the country, with nine freshmen on its squad. It is likely that when the Eagles take the floor at the RBC Center, four of the five starters will be freshmen and the fifth will be redshirt junior shooting guard Matt Humphrey, a transfer from Oregon playing his first season at BC. Humphrey is the only Eagles player to have started all 14 games this year. All told, BC has 12 new players this year with three transfers playing with the freshmen … Statistically, Boston College lost 92 percent of its blocks, 89 percent of its scoring and assists, 80 percent of its rebounding and 78 percent of its steals from last year's squad … Humphrey's average of 10.1 points per game is the lowest average for a leading scorer for any ACC team … Boston College struggled in its non-conference slate, starting the year 2-7 with one of its two victories a double-overtime win versus UC Riverside. The Eagles have gone 5-9 against non-ACC opponents … The Eagles' NCAA RPI as of Jan. 16 was No. 216, the worst of the 12 ACC teams. The next lowest was Clemson at 162.
NC State: Wood has been perfect from the free throw line this season, making all 41 of his attempts. He has made 51 consecutive tries from the charity stripe dating back to last year, which is just three shy of tying former Duke sharpshooter J.J. Redick for the ACC's all-time record for consecutive free throws made … Wood also leads the ACC in three-point field-goal accuracy (43.3 percent) and three-pointers made (45, 2.6 per game). He also holds the league's longest active streak of games with a three-pointer made, with 15 straight contests … Expect the Eagles to try to exploit NC State's shaky perimeter defense. Entering the week of Jan. 16, Boston College had attempted more three-point shots than any team in the ACC and was second to Duke in made threes. The Wolfpack was last in the ACC in three-point field goal defense, allowing opponents to make 37.4 percent of their long-range shots … When NC State travels to Chestnut Hill on Feb. 1, odds are they will play in front of a small crowd. The Eagles' average home attendance through 11 games was 4,396 — the second fewest in the ACC behind Georgia Tech (4,207 after eight home dates).