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SPARTAN SPOTLIGHT – JESSIE BROWN

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Women’s Basketball

SPARTAN SPOTLIGHT – JESSIE BROWN

Jessie Brown wasn’t happy after the Spartans home-opening loss to Alberta.

Not only had the Spartans lost in Brown’s first ever home game at Trinity Western, but the first-year Langley product had made just three of her 15 attempts from the field and was held entirely off the score sheet from beyond the arc, going zero for nine.

The following night, the most recent star to graduate from the legendary Brookswood Secondary women’s basketball program went to work.

In TWU’s second game against Alberta, the fiery competitor, who, in her Grade 12 year scored more 3-pointers over the course of the season than her entire opposition combined, wasn’t about to have a repeat performance.

“I hate having bad games,” Brown says with an emphatic tone. “On Saturday, I was just like, ‘Come on.’”

Playing the No. 3 ranked Pandas, the 5-foot-8 shooting guard not only led TWU in scoring with 16 points on that Saturday night, but she also had one of her best 3-point shooting night of her young CIS career, going three for seven.

There’s no doubt she was dialed and if there’s one thing that has become obvious already in Brown’s time with Trinity Western, she doesn’t like to lose.

At anything.

In preseason training, the Spartans practices would frequently feature shooting competitions.

It took Brown a few weeks before she won her first competition and her frustration, at the time, was evident.

“I could tell it was really irritating her that she wasn’t winning shooting competitions because she’s a shooter,” says Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul.

When she finally won her first competition, there was a sense of, if not excitement, at least relief.

“The first time she won one, she was like ‘Yes,’” Jean-Paul says. “I could see that satisfaction on her face.”

Brown concurs: “I cannot stand losing.”

Brown’s final game of her high school career was in early March at the Langley Events Centre.

With her dad, Neil Brown, coaching her Bobcats team from the sidelines, Jessie helped Brookswood capture the B.C. senior girls AAA championship. The 64-57 win over Oak Bay in the championship game put a perfect bow on a season in which Brookswood went 40-1 and Brown was named The Province newspaper’s 2013-14 Player of the Year.

So when she arrived back at the LEC this fall to join the Spartans, she brought both her impressive talents and a winning mentality to a TWU program that she has watched since she was six years old. With the Spartans playing not far from where she grew up, Brown and her dad were frequent attendees in the Spartans crowd.

Growing up with the basketball-centric Neil as her coach and dad, watching CIS basketball and playing day in and day out was just the way things were.

As young as Grade 3, Jessie played alongside basketball her sister Christina, who was three years older.

While Jessie was still in elementary school, her dad would bring her to Brookswood, where he was a teacher, at 7 a.m. to give her a chance to shoot for 45 minutes before school. She would then be given a ride back to her elementary school.

Neil pushed her to be better every step of the way.

“Sometimes he would force me to go to things, but if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half as good as I am now,” Jessie says. “At the time it wasn’t as fun, but now I’m so grateful for it.”

So are the Spartans.

It’s far too early in her career to pass any sort of judgments, but six games in she is already starting to find her way. The pace is quicker and the players are stronger, but with four games already in which she has scored at least 15 points and with a team-leading 13.0 points per game, she’s showing why she came into university so highly touted.

“She’s finding a way to adapt to the CIS game, which is great to see for a first-year athlete,” Jean-Paul says. “She’s going to have to keep working at extending her minutes at the CIS level, but for a first-year kid, she’s doing pretty well.”

Earlier in the season, Jean-Paul offered her players an opportunity, if they needed it, to get a little extra fitness work before practice. Even though Brown had been playing 20 minutes a game, she arrived early to train.

Following the session, Jean-Paul approached Brown and encouraged her that her fitness indeed had improved since the start of the year.

Brown looked at Jean-Paul and then pointed at TWU teammates Luca Schmidt and Kayla Gordon.

“But I’m not there yet,” she said.

And that approach is what Jean-Paul and Brown’s TWU teammates have come to expect.

“That attitude embodies the fact that she’s not satisfied with being where she’s at,” Jean-Paul says.

With a subtle smile, Brown laughed when an inquirer asked if she set goals for herself to start this season. She had, but she didn’t disclose them. She did confess they may have been a bit lofty.

But when pressed for her more realistic goals, she’s still clearly aiming for the top.

“I want to be one of the top scorers on our team, also but I don’t want to be a defensive liability,” she says.

That’s Brown. She knows she’s expected to score, but, at the same time, knows exactly where she needs to improve.

She came to TWU to help build the Spartans program into something great.

Last Saturday’s bounce back night is likely just the start of things to come.