With the 2020-2021 Michigan State men’s basketball season over, we will take individual looks at how each Spartan performed over the course of the year.
In our eighth edition of the series, we go through Gabe Brown’s season and see if he could deliver on the promise of his first two years in the program.
Averages per game: 20.7 minutes, 7.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 47.1% fields goal percentage, 42.0% three-point percentage, 88.2% free throw percentage
Gabe Brown’s season is a tough one to judge since he tested positive for COVID-19 in January. Even with that setback, he improved in numerous areas of his game, mainly his efficiency. He upped his shooting percentage from 43.6 percent as a sophomore to 47.1 percent this year, his improvement as a three-point shooter was even more significant (34.1 percent to 42 percent). The 42 percent from downtown metric is even more impressive considering Brown took 3.2 triples per game, on average. He was never shy about letting them fly from beyond the arc, but this season he picked his spots a lot better, was ready to catch and shoot regularly, plus he moved better without the ball than he ever did in years prior. He complemented his shooting prowess once again with elite level athleticism that was usually good for at least one highlight-reel play per game.
Defensively, Brown has improved significantly in recent years and is finally using his incredible length to his advantage. He moves his feet much better and isn’t prone to as many mental lapses anymore. Brown’s athleticism, his shooting touch and his length gave the Spartans a lot of balance late in the year when he started to get a lot more minutes. As has been the case his entire time in East Lansing, Brown was again highly motivated — his hard offseason work showed effects in real game action, and he brought a lot of emotion to the table. Brown would also often come back to the court after games finished to get more shots up. Michigan State has a special place in his heart due to the whole story with his father, who passed away at an early age, wanting Brown to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and that is very apparent whenever he is on the court.
Whenever Gabe Brown flies along the baseline for a thundering slam or when he seamlessly catches a ball in transition and connects on a difficult three-pointer you think to yourself, “What if he could ever do it consistently?“ Consistency has been an issue for Brown his entire career and that was also the case this past season. Now he has developed into a very efficient offensive player, but that should also lead to him demanding more shots and getting himself more opportunities. Too often Brown just gets lost somewhere in the corners and doesn’t even come close to realizing his full potential. The biggest issues that are holding him back are his handles and his passing ability. Brown has a tough time taking any opponent off the dribble and when he isn’t set up he finds it hard to make an impact as a scorer. He still hasn’t shown great passing instincts either and rarely makes plays for others. Both these things go hand in hand of course hurt his overall importance to the team.
Brown should also be much more advanced as a rebounder. Not many college wings can even think about matching his length and his athleticism at 6-feet-8-inches tall. The combination of those two things should be absolutely deadly on the glass. While he had the excuse of lacking weight his first two years he definitely is put together pretty well now and should get many more boards than the 2.7 per game he got last season. Instincts play a big part in rebounding, too, and just like in other areas, Brown at times seems to be a little lacking in that regard.
Gabe Brown always had loads of untapped potential, but now he only has one more year left to realize it. Considering the roster makeup and his work ethic, I have no doubt in my mind that he will raise his game as a senior. The big question will be by how much? He most likely will be a starter, but without more consistency it will be hard for him to be much more than the very good role player he already is now.
OVERALL SEASON GRADE