Brown expects, and is expected, to lead Lobo hoops squad - Albuquerque Journal

Brown expects, and is expected, to lead Lobo hoops squad

Amaya Brown takes a long jump shot during recent drills in the Pit for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Amaya Brown is in full now-or-never mode.

Returning to her hometown for a single season with the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, Brown has every intention to make the most of it. The 5-foot-11 redshirt senior guard brought infectious energy to the Lobos’ workouts this summer and did her best to win over a new group of teammates after spending four seasons at Florida State.

Brown doesn’t want to simply fit in. She aims to lead.

“As a fifth-year senior, I have to bring leadership.” Brown said after a brief but intense workout this week in the Pit.

Those who watched Brown’s stellar prep career at Cibola High might reasonably assume that means leading by example. The two-time Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year put up monster numbers for the Cougars but had relatively little to say on or off the court.

Times have changed.

“Yeah, I was not vocal in high school,” Brown said with a smile, “but when I got to Florida State, they made us talk. I’m a lot more vocal now. I’ll say what needs to be said.”

It could be a bonus for the Lobos, whose most vocal player by far last season, Jaedyn De La Cerda, exhausted her eligibility. Returning “super seniors” (using an allowed extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic) LaTascya and LaTora Duff and Shaiquel McGruder fall more into the lead-by-example category.

UNM coach Mike Bradbury, who recruited Brown out of Cibola, smiled when asked about her vocal skills.

“Amaya’s grown up,” he said. “I think she can be a vocal leader for us. The kids see how hard she works and they respect her. She’s in great shape and looks really good.”

Thanks in large part to injuries, Brown’s Florida State tenure was something of a roller coaster. In 2019 she suffered a torn right ACL (the same knee on which she had ACL surgery in high school), sprained the knee as a junior and saw limited action after a promising freshman season.

But the daughter of former UNM men’s basketball standout Greg Brown sees 2022-23 as a chance to change the narrative. She’s finally healthy and feels good about the talent the Lobos have stockpiled. Brown believes UNM can and should aim high.

“I’ve been very impressed with the girls, and we definitely have a shot to win a Mountain West title,” Brown said. “To me, it’s really the only option – get a ring.”

Florida State guard Amaya Brown tries to get past Creighton defenders during an NCAA women’s basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Tallahassee, Florida. (AP Photo/ Mark Wallheiser)

REALITY CHECK: Brown said she has enjoyed returning to Albuquerque and looks forward to playing in front of friends and family next season. Coming home from Tallahassee, Florida, did have one down side, however.

“I had to adjust to the elevation,” she said. “Growing up here, I never really thought about that, but it’s a real thing. That was tough.”

NUMBERS GAME: UNM had its full complement of 15 players in the Pit for the final week of summer workouts as posts Hulda Joaquim and Paula Reus joined the squad. Joaquim, a 6-1 junior, recently completed summer courses at Seward County Community College in Kansas, while Reus spent time in her native Spain after undergoing knee surgery at the conclusion of her freshman season at UNM.

Reus, named to the MWC all-freshman team in 2021-22, is still rehabbing. She was in uniform this week and took part in shooting drills but has not been cleared to start running.

Sophomore Aniyah Augmon and freshman Natalia Chavez also have missed time with nagging injuries this summer, but Bradbury is hopeful that everyone but Reus will be fully available when the Lobos return to practice in August. There is no timeline for Reus to return.

UNM has 15 scholarship players on its roster for the first time since 2018-19, and Bradbury hopes to take advantage of his team’s depth. The Lobos typically employed seven- or eight-player rotations last season.

“We taxed our starters pretty hard,” he said. “We’re hoping to play more people this year, but that depends on the players. You never know who will step up when the lights go on. The good news is we’ve got options.”

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