By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Breanna Brown has been there and blocked that quite a few times, which makes her a nice fit for Georgia Tech women’s basketball, and the elder Yellow Jacket feels very good about her fit at the Institute as well.
Months before graduating in June from Oregon State with a degree in digital media, she knew she wanted to keep playing basketball and continue her education. Research revealed Tech as one of a few institutions offering a graduate program in digital media, and head coach MaChelle Joseph emphasizes defense.
“So, I just took a leap of faith, really. I took a visit in like April,” Brown said. “[Defense], That’s a focus of hers and that’s definitely been a focus of mine. Defense wins games . . .
“I love blocking shots. I feel like that fuels everything I’m doing. Once I block a shot, I’m ready to go. That whole defensive outlook and aspect of the game kind of fuels my offense and pretty much gets me more hyped.”
The 6-foot-3 post player arrived on The Flats shortly after graduating, and has worked her way into the picture as the Jackets seek to better last season’s 22-15 record -- a campaign that ended with a triple overtime loss to Michigan in the WNIT.
Tech’s top six scorers return, and between them, four new scholarship freshmen and Brown, Joseph has a good feeling about this team.
In four years at OSU, including a redshirt sophomore season, Brown backed up two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Ruth Hamblin, a 6-6 Canadian who set a slew of school records for rebounding and blocked shots. She earned first team all-conference honors three times before graduating in 2016.
The Beavers went to the Final Four in 2016, and to the Sweet 16 last season, when Brown was her team’s third-leading scorer (7.8 points per game), second-leading rebounder (5.8) and leading shot blocker (1.9). She was honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Defensive team.
The ACC media picked Tech to finish ninth this season, yet the league’s coaches think more highly of the Jackets’ chances. That’s probably because they know more about Brown and freshman post player Lorela Cubaj (6-4) of Italy.
“They don’t really know our team,” Joseph said of the media. “They don’t know Breanna Brown, who transferred here from Oregon State who has played on a Final Four team, started on a Sweet 16 team last year, who was a Pac-12 All-Defensive honorable mention.
“She’s 6-4 and gives us a whole other dimension and depth to the post. I’ve never had six post players, legitimate post players who could play double-digit minutes.”
Joseph may have more post players than minutes.
With seniors Zaire O’Neal (5-11) and Elo Edeferioka (6-2) as the top returning players in the post, and freshmen Cubaj and Daijah Jefferson (6-2) joining the mix, the coach will have options in the middle.
Brown chose the option of Tech.
A native of Oakland, Calif., she chose to redshirt her second year for OSU head coach Scott Rueck, “to develop,” and then played sparingly as a third-year sophomore when Hamblin was a senior on that Final Four team.
Brown was in the middle of everything last season, when Rueck made the following comment to Oregon State student newspaper about her, “Her toughness in a leadership standpoint of ‘we’re getting this done’ and ‘we came here to do this,’ and ‘let’s go,’ I don’t know how you measure it. She’s earned it and is running with the opportunity. That impact has been absolutely key and maybe one of the strongest presences on this team.”
Georgia Tech fits Brown for multiple reasons, chiefly with the school’s masters of science program in digital media.
“There’s a little bit of website building, app building, and there’s also film and production which is kind of my favorite aspect of it,” she said. “I did a lot of that while I was at Oregon State. Being here is kind of shaping my knowledge of coding and things along those lines.
“I’m very interested in film production, so I definitely will try to head over to Turner, CNN, TNT, any of those, and from there probably start my own production company or something along those lines.”
Having lived her entire life on the West Coast, Brown nonetheless feels comfortable in Atlanta, she said, because one of her two older brothers, Gerald Jr., graduated from Morehouse and still lives here while working for Delta. Plus, her father, Gerald, is frequently in the area on business.
She’s also cozy playing for Joseph, who has said that her team’s depth this season – inside and out – figures to allow the Jackets to return to the pressing, trapping style that the coach prefers.
That’s just fine with Brown.
“Definitely, there are two aspects I like about it the most. One is her intensity,” she said of the Joseph methods. “That’s something that I love, having someone that will push you and help you reach a whole other level. I think that her passion and intensity she shows will help me reach a whole other level.
“And also her concentration on defense . . . that’s something we share as far as our view of the game.”