Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the season, we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. Next up is Isiah Brown, a talented guard who will look for consistency after a bumpy freshman season.
Who he is:
Sophomore; guard; 6-foot-2, 190 pounds; Seattle, Washington
6.3 points per game; 14.8 minutes; 1.2 rebounds; 1.2 assists; .332/.284/.768 shooting splits
Brown arrived at Northwestern as the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Washington, averaging nearly 34 points per game during his senior year of high school. His scoring prowess was on display right away; the 6-foot-2 guard put up double-digit points in three of his first four colleges games. Brown’s ability to create shots for himself in any situation was a valuable asset for Northwestern throughout conference play. When Northwestern came out flat against Rutgers in January, Brown provided a spark off the bench. After the Wildcats put up three points in the first seven minutes of the game, Brown came off the bench to score 11 of the next 22 for Northwestern, ensuring the deficit didn’t get out of hand.
When McIntosh got into foul trouble against Maryland, Brown came off the bench ready to play. A game-high 19 points from the true freshman helped keep Northwestern in the game with their best player on the bench and ineffective. And in a road win against Ohio State, Brown notched three assists and came up with a clutch steal and lay-in with three minutes left that put Northwestern up by five points.
Brown’s offensive aggression made for some important moments that helped Northwestern win games, but turnovers and inefficiency characterized Brown’s game as well, and it was clear Chris Collins didn’t trust him by the end of the season, as he didn’t play in Northwestern’s monumental victory over Michigan at home. In just 15 minutes per game, Brown had the highest usage rate of any Northwestern player last season, at 26.7%.
On several occasions, Brown’s scoring mentality, quickness, and dynamic ability to make plays kept Northwestern’s offense afloat. He has a knack for shot creation and exudes seemingly endless confidence in his offensive game. Brown handles the ball very well and uses his speed to get past defenders and finish with his right hand. He’s a weapon in transition:
As well as within a half-court offense:
His agressiveness also shows up in a strong steal percentage and an offensive rebounding rate that was higher than Bryant McIntosh or Scottie Lindsey’s (albeit in far fewer minutes).
Where Brown struggled is where most freshmen tend to have difficulties: decision-making and consistency. While Brown showed a propensity for making difficult shots, he wasn’t efficient at all. Of the Wildcats who played more than 10 percent of Northwestern’s minutes, Brown was last in true shooting percentage, a shooting efficiency metric that adjusts for three-pointers and free throws. He shot just 33.2 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from deep, numbers that will need to improve should Brown’s usage rate keep up. Per hoop-math.com, he made just 26.1 percent of his two-point jumpers (which made up almost half of his shots). 79.2 percent of those 2-point jumper attempts were unassisted, as he often forced floaters and pull-ups.
At times, it seemed like Brown made his mind up to shoot the ball before analyzing what the rest of the court looked like. He also logged a higher turnover rate than his assist rate. Learning when and where to pass the ball will be instrumental in Brown’s development.
Brown played consistent minutes at the backup point guard spot for the majority of the season, even earning two starts when Scottie Lindsey was out with mono. Yet when the games mattered most — against Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Gonzaga — Brown rarely saw the floor. Brown’s talent is clear, but he will need to minimize mistakes and not try to do too much to gain Chris Collins’ trust in crunch-time.
Brown will likely start the season as B-Mac’s backup, with perhaps an expanded role as Northwestern plays its non-conference schedule. He could also get some playing time at the two, but all indications are that freshman Anthony Gaines will be competing for backcourt minutes as well, so both players will hopefully push each other before conference play starts at the beginning of December. Brown’s advantage is that he has a skill set unlike any other player on the roster — he knows how to get his shot and score the ball. Using that skill wisely and efficiently will be determine how Brown figures into the rotation this season. His overall game should improve and develop with time, but he better hope it happens quick — four-star point guard Jordan Lathon will fight for the starting role right away in 2018-19.