Kennesaw State’s gym had a Berkmar feel this past Saturday.
Patriot head coach Greg Phillips brought his players to watch the Owls’ matchup with Thomas University, drawn by a chance to see two of his former guards, KSU’s Yonel Brown and Thomas’ Adonai Rogers. It was the perfect time to put on a show for the folks from his alma mater.
“I guess you could say that,” Brown said.
The 5-foot-9 guard didn’t disappoint.
Brown scored a school-record 36 points, topping his own school mark of 32, in Kennesaw State’s 92-66 victory. He scored 25 in the first half, finishing 13 of 20 from the field (4 of 7 from 3-point range) and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
It was the junior’s second 30-point game of the season after tying the school mark with 32 Nov. 29 vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“It felt great,” Brown said. “I have to thank my teammates for pushing me all offseason to get in the gym and get better. They see my potential more than anybody, pushing me so hard and giving me so much energy on and off the court. … I worked in the offseason a lot on my game. I worked a lot mentally as well. Going through two full seasons of college basketball is tough mentally and physically. I tried to prepare myself for the long season.”
Brown, a two-time Region 8-AAAAAA player of the year at Berkmar, was named the Atlantic Sun Conference player of the week on Monday. He also scored 21 last week at Tennessee State.
“It’s a great honor for Yonel,” KSU head coach Jimmy Lallathin said. “He’s worked extremely hard off the floor and has been a great leader for us this year. We’re really excited about his leadership ability and growth as we start conference play.”
It’s been a breakout season thus far for Brown, who ranks third in the Atlantic Sun in scoring (15.1). He has scored in double figures in the last seven games, a great sign as the Owls enter their A-Sun opener Saturday at conference favorite USC-Upstate.
He and his teammates also are battle-tested from a tough non-conference schedule with games against the likes of Syracuse, California, Mercer, Butler and Illinois.
“It’s been tough,” Brown said of his team’s 5-11 record. “But it will help us in the long run. Everybody’s playing for the same thing. We want to make a statement in our conference. Of course, we want to try to win the conference. There are two powerhouses in the conference and every other spot is up for grabs. We want to get a good seed in the tournament, steal some games and eventually try to take the crown.”
Brown’s improved game gives the Owls a much better shot.
He averaged 3.5 points and 1.3 assists as a freshman reserve, bumping his numbers slightly to 5.6 points and 2.3 assists as a sophomore last season, when he made 14 starts. He spent the offseason pushing for more out of his game, toiling on the court and watching video off of it, particularly of other guards his size, like NBA standouts Kemba Walker and Phil Pressey.
“I don’t think I played up to my full potential (my first two college seasons),” Brown said. “It was a mental challenge for me. I didn’t expect such a long, brutal season like it is in college. It was definitely different for me. I had to adjust to it.”
Consider him adjusted.
He’s now the go-to player and a team leader for a team looking to turn its record around in conference play.
“It’s a new season, a new mindset starting conference play,” Brown said. “It’s a good opportunity in our first (conference) game against the best team in the conference. We want to go out and make a little noise, and let the rest of the conference know we’re ready make some noise.”
The other Berkmar half of last Saturday’s game, Rogers, finished with six points and four rebounds, but that’s not very indicative of his sophomore season. The 6-2 guard averages 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 assists for Thomas.
“(Thomas) is having a great season,” Brown said.
– Article courtesy of Gwinnett Daily Post