Rod Brown didn’t get to introduce himself to Lobos fans at a Cherry and Silver game.
There were no exhibition games for the 6-foot-7 former Wichita State forward to make his debut.
COVID-19 public health restrictions have even shut down any open practices and made media availability almost impossible. He’s one of a dozen players on the 18-man Lobos roster who never has played a game for New Mexico and one of nine who wasn’t even enrolled in the school until summer.
So, what do we know about Rod Brown?
Over the past five days of uninterrupted practices at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas – more than twice as long a stretch as the Lobos have had since last March – it started to become clear: It’s hard to match the effort of the Memphis native.
“That boy, his motor is different,” said fellow UNM newcomer SaQuan Singleton of Brown. “His motor is crazy. It’s just – I just love working with him, competing with him, you know? Iron sharpens iron. I just be trying to work hard to get after him.”
UNM coach Paul Weir has made clear there is still a long way to go for his program, which wasn’t even holding summer team workouts due to the Governor’s public health order. But Weir said it’s hard for anyone to ignore the tone Brown has been setting.
“I asked the guys the other night,” Weir said Tuesday in a media video conference. “Really, for us, it’s been about effort. We’ve really tried to put a premium on how hard we play and the kind of effort that we’re putting out there when we compete. And you know, two guys that are pretty unanimous right now are Rod Brown and Kurt Curry (Wegscheider). They’ve been just exceptional defensively, energy-wise, effort-wise, the things we want to kind of be about.”
Wegscheider, the 6-foot-4 sophomore from the Central African Republic, started at point guard at the end of 2019-20 but played only sparingly until the season’s final week. He has established himself as a defensive gem, but there were glimpses of that last winter.
But in Brown, the 6-7 forward who played last season at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College, there seems to be a drive to prove something – about himself and about a Lobos team that has had to clear hurdles other college teams have not, just to get to a season.
“I see it just the way we compete,” Brown said. ” … When it’s all said and done, we all bring each other in. And I think that’s gonna be the key for us. When adversity started to hit, we all started to bring each other in by communicating, and just having a team chemistry. I think that’s when the chemistry actually comes in, when adversity hits.”
Weir said Brown is leading the team in rebounds so far in any competitive drill scenarios where stats are recorded. Brown’s motor, as Singleton points out, fits right into what the coaching staff has continued to preach should be a return to a high-intensity, pressure defense that will likely include pressing again like the 2017-18 season. Then, Lobos’ roster also had less heralded players who felt they had something to prove.
Brown says defense is where his motivation starts.
“Coming out of high school,” he said, “I was considered a 4-star (recruit) and I used to look at guys in front of me like, ‘What makes them better than me? Is he so talented? So, I’ll be like, if he’s really a 5-star, show me why he’s a 5-star. Give me a bucket. Make a shot on me defending you. Prove to me why you (are that) good. That’s always been my style of game – to guard the best player on each team.”
BOISE STATE: While it hasn’t yet been canceled, odds are slim the Lobos’ series at Boise State gets played on Dec. 3 and 5 as scheduled. UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez told the Journal he won’t let that happen after consulting with team doctors, who advised at least 10 to 14 full days of practice before considering games at the highest level like Boise State. However, UNM may schedule a non-Division I opponent for next week in what would amount to what an exhibition game would be in a normal season.
Boise State would still like to play the games next week. Weir was asked Tuesday how many practices the team would need.
“For Boise State? We need a lot of them,” Weir said. “I think they’re 75 practices in. … I think everybody was kind of agreeing somewhere 10 to 14 days of practices is probably a safe barometer.”