"What can Brown do for you?"
The United Postal Service's signature tagline has served as a synonym amongst the inhabitants of the city of Columbia, Mo., for the last few weeks. And it all started with a superb performance where the Missouri Tigers fought for "Braggin' Rights" against their cross-state rival Illinois Fighting Illini.
19.1 seconds remained.
A crowd split right down the middle; navy blue and orange on one side, and black and gold on another roared inside the Scottrade Center. The Fighting Illini were looking to defeat the Tigers in men's basketball for the first time since the 2008 season. Missouri had dominated Illinois for the last four seasons, and as a current student at The University of Missouri, this writer never knew what it was like to experience a defeat in the annual clash for Braggin' Rights.
The Fighting Illini were poised to end the drought. They were clinging onto a 63-61 lead and John Groce looked to do what Bruce Weber forgot how to do.
Point guard Jordan Clarkson sent a pass towards Earnest Ross, and the Auburn transfer tossed it to the Tulsa transfer, who chugged his way past the free throw line. Watchful eyes fell upon an Oakland, Ca. native, who was alone in the corner.
It was Jabari Brown.
Brown, who had merely seven points, caught the basketball and leapt high into the air as the Scottrade Center collectively held their breaths. And the ball traveled high in the air, before comfortably landing inside the basket. The ball collapsed through the net, and a massive roar was elicited. It was the black and gold who were the loudest, and the navy and orange were stunned silent.
"What can Brown do for you?" Put you into position to win.
It is true that the Tigers could not come away with a victory. They were not able to claim Braggin' Rights for the first time since 2008. "Live Your Life" by T.I. and Rihanna was blaring at the top of the charts the last time that the Illini were able to lay claim to a victory over the Tigers. To go further, Missouri and Illinois were still clashing in football the last time that Illinois fans were able to celebrate a victory over Ol' Mizzou in men's basketball.
Sure seems like a long time ago, no?
But even in defeat, and even though it was a tough pill to swallow, Missouri fans were about to take notice to one of their own entering the spotlight. A former five-star recruit was coming into his own. A former McDonald's All-American was beginning to flash the talent that many believed he was capable of collecting in his collegiate career.
Since that shot fell inside the Scottrade Center, Jabari Brown has been making a habit out of putting on premier performance after premier performance. Brown has averaged a staggering 22.1 points over the last 11 games. Over his last 142 shot attempts in those 11 games, the Oakland native has converted on a staggering 53.5 percent of them from all over the field.
His TS% stands tall at 66.2 percent on the season, which makes for 18th best amongst his peers. This number puts him in the company of Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Creighton's Ethan Wragge, whose 74.1 TS% leads the nation. Both have made major impacts in their own right, and Brown certainly is no different.
Brown's impact can be felt elsewhere as well. The junior guard is grabbing an average of 3.45 rebounds over this stretch, and has improved his mark to 4.5 on the season. He is getting it done on the free throw line, shooting 78.3 percent from the stripe.
And, perhaps most impressively, he is collecting an inordinate amount of minutes. His Min% of 91.2 leads all Tigers, and is the 28th highest mark on the season. We are talking about a player who is out there, night after night, playing almost every minute of every game, being relied upon to will his team to victory. Which brings us back to the question we asked earlier:
"What can Brown do for you?"
While the results are not showing in the win-loss column, no one can deny that Brown's not doing enough. The Player of the Year Award's criteria is not necessarily team-dependent. It is simply given to the most outstanding individual in the conference.
While more expectations and more impact is bestowed upon a game with five players on the floor as opposed to a sport like football with 11, or baseball with multiple players in multiple situations, the question of "What can Brown do for you?" can be answered by simply saying, "a lot."
It is true that Missouri is disappointing. And it is true that Missouri has been struggling. The Tigers have almost no front court presence. Earnest Ross and Jordan Clarkson in their own right have been good or great players, but each has their own limitations. Clarkson's inefficiencies are quite troubling, and Ross too has efficiency issues, especially from the perimeter.
Is that Brown's fault?
Not necessarily at all. Brown's impact can be felt each time he steps onto the floor. Whether it is inside the confines of Mizzou Arena, or out on the road, the 6'5" junior guard is knowing his role, and is busy laying the smack down on his adversaries on a nightly basis.
He puts up points. He has near-impeccable efficiency. He grabs boards and sinks his free opportunities at a very solid clip. The Missouri offense runs through this Golden State native, and he has been more than willing to take up the opportunity, logging in an exhausting amount of time on the court.
Brown can do a lot for you.
When all is done and dusted, it might just be Missouri's Jabari Brown, whose talent is finally flourishing, and dependability is only growing.