In the final minutes of practice, a freshman point guard comes up lame. He’s clutching his right knee, tensing his face and contorting his body. He’s obviously in pain. He wobbles to the sideline, and you might think he was done.
But suddenly something happens. He straightens up and refuses to stay out. SirValiant Brown is a warrior. And warriors don’t sit out of practice with ailing knees. Minutes later, Brown is back on the court, slashing and cutting, leaving defenders frozen in their steps.
Brown is a freshman, but he and the rest of head coach Tom Penders’ highly touted recruiting class – Chris Monroe and junior college transfer Bernard Barrow – make up the new face of GW basketball. Barrow and Brown are both expected to start, as all three guards attempt to fill the shoes of Shawnta Rogers.
His name really is SirValiant Brown, and although that name comes from a different time and place, he’s just a few miles from home. And at 6-1, 160 pounds, this freshmen point guard from the Old Dominion is already a Renaissance Man.
Val can do everything for us, Penders said. He’s your prototypical Tom Penders-type guard, where he can get up and down the floor. He can play defense, and he’s very confident. I like kids that think they’re great or better then everyone else. And Val fits that.
Brown, who averaged 27 points, five assists and three steals a game as a senior at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Va., chose GW because of its proximity to home. He had heard from Maryland, Xavier, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Kentucky.
I could have went far, he said. But I didn’t. I didn’t want my family to have to travel for games. I chose my backyard to make my backyard better.
Brown, who has SirValiant tattooed on one arm and NBA on the other, says Penders’ style also suited him.
I came here for the run-and-gun offense, he said. I’m a flashy player.
Barrow also looks to start at point this season as Penders has designed an offense that uses both players simultaneously.
The ambidextrous Barrow went to Kilgore Community College (Texas) for the last two years. At a confident 5-8, the extremely quick Barrow might just remind GW fans of another short and quick point guard.
But make no comparisons.
I’m not Shawnta Rogers, said Barrow. I gotta be my own player. Shawnta was a shooter, I’m a passer. I’m a true New York City point guard.
Barrow, who enters GW as a junior, hails from Harlem. Penders has been watching Barrow since he was 14. In leading Kilgore to a 54-11 record and garnering all-conference and all-region honors, Barrow gained the confidence and heart that he thinks will prepare him to start his first game with a Division I program.
When it all comes down to it, said Barrow, I want the ball. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make the big play with all the pressure on me. I want it.
The 6-3 Chris Monroe is another freshman guard from the D.C. area who expects to make an impact immediately. At 210 pounds, he’s built like a linebacker. Penders calls him a power guard.
At Good Counsel High School, Monroe averaged 22.4 points per game. He committed early (along with Brown), and said that Penders’ style of play and Brown were both a factor.
I’ve played with Val on AAU teams, I’ve played against him as rivals, he said. But it feels good to be playing with him again.
Although Monroe’s development was set back when he missed three weeks of conditioning with a broken nose, Penders expects Monroe to see action as a sixth man.
I like his ability as the sixth man, Penders said. Teams won’t be prepared for him. I expect Chris to play a significant role.
Meanwhile, Monroe, Brown and Barrow have all brought a high level of competitiveness to practice.
It’s good competition, Brown said. We make each other work hard, and that’ll make the team better.
Where once the GW backcourt began and ended with a 5-4 miracle, it’s now stacked with talent – from Monroe to Brown to Barrow to Mike King. Rogers’ shoes were heroically large, but they might already be filled.