ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Antiesha Brown pulled several of her UNM women’s basketball teammates together after practice Wednesday for a quick huddle and cheer.
The irony was not lost on the redshirt sophomore. She’s been relegated to cheering for quite a while now.
Brown transferred to New Mexico from Texas Tech last December and was required by NCAA rules to sit out a full year. She could practice, she could run with the scout team, and at home games she could sit at the end of the bench and cheer.
“All that cheerleading was not always fun,” Brown conceded. “It’s not a role I’m used to, being on the bench for 40 minutes.”
This week Brown’s role officially changed.
The 5-foot-10 guard from Clovis completed final exams and will don a Lobo game uniform for the first time Tuesday when UNM visits New Mexico State. The prospect has Brown in an undeniably cheerful mood.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said with a wide smile. “No more finals, no stress, and I finally get to play for the Lobos. Things are great right now.”
Coach Yvonne Sanchez and Brown’s UNM teammates are equally upbeat about her impending availability. Clovis High School’s career scoring leader, it seems, has a lot to bring to the table.
“She’ll really boost our guard rotation,” Sanchez said. “She’ll play 2-guard and the point, and she’s going to get quite a few minutes. ‘Teesh’ gives us another dimension with her quickness and all-around game.”
Some Lobo fans got a glimpse of Brown’s abilities at an open intrasquad scrimmage in late October. She poured in a team-best 26 points that night.
Brown’s greatest contribution, however, may be on defense. The ultra-quick guard has spent the past 12 months refining her defensive skills and generally making teammates miserable at practice.
“Coming from Texas Tech, her defense was more in-your-face than the ball-defense we usually play,” senior Jourdan Erskine said. “Going against her at practice benefited us, but it’s going to be so nice having her on our side.”
Brown was on the opponent’s bench during her only official collegiate game at the Pit. She scored one point in limited duty as Texas Tech dominated the Lobos during her freshman season.
That 2010 contest largely summed up Brown’s tenure with the Red Raiders. She appeared in just seven games as a freshman and did not see dramatically increased playing time on the horizon.
Brown opted to transfer to UNM, a program that heavily recruited her in high school. The transition wasn’t always smooth as she completed the 2011 fall semester in Lubbock and moved to Albuquerque during semester break.
“In all honesty that was the most awkward time,” Brown said, “when I wasn’t at Tech anymore and not really at UNM yet. Once I started school and was practicing with my teammates, I started getting more comfortable.”
Sanchez would have given plenty to have Brown eligible last season, when player defections and injuries left UNM’s roster paper-thin. But Brown’s infectious personality helped last season’s struggling team remain positive, and Sanchez believes she’ll give this year’s much-improved squad a similar lift.
“She brings so much energy,” Sanchez said. “She’s one of those kids that lights up a room, and we need that. We have great kids who do their jobs, but we kind of lack that energy kid. That’s Antiesha.”
Brown already has built connections with some UNM fans through social media and says she appreciates the supportive comments she’s received. Her Clovis home is closer geographically to Lubbock than Albuquerque, but Brown said she feels more at home at UNM than she did at Texas Tech.
Still, there are no hard feelings. Tech’s coaches and players greeted Brown warmly during the Lady Raiders’ November visit to the Pit.
The most difficult part of that game, Brown said, was not being able to play. She enjoyed UNM’s 65-61 victory, nonetheless.
“I just wanted us to beat them,” Brown said. “It kind of showed something to people who said, ‘You’re leaving a Big 12 school to go to New Mexico?’ I would have liked to have a hand in it, but I celebrated with my team. It was probably the best closure I could get for that situation.”
Brown says she’s now excited to look ahead. Her first five games as an eligible Lobo will come in a cherry road uniform, but Brown says the timing suits her fine.
“I think my role will develop as the season goes on,” she said. “You’re not going to tell a kid who hasn’t really played in two years to go score 30, so I just want to play solid defense, build chemistry with my teammates and not try to do too much.
“I think it’s probably good for me to start with five road games,” she added, “so I can work up to playing at the Pit. I’m looking forward to hearing the fans cheer for me, but mostly I just want to finally put on a New Mexico jersey.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal