Deleon Brown didn't have some unexpected growth spurt in recent months. Nor was it revealed he actually is older than advertised.
Nonetheless, within a few short weeks this spring, Brown transformed from a wide-eyed rookie to one of the most experienced players on the Colorado men's basketball roster. With competition ahead of him and coming up from behind in the form of the Buffaloes' highly-regarded freshman class, Brown is hoping to use the extra practices CU gets to hold this summer ahead of the program's August trip to Italy as a springboard into a more consistent sophomore season.
"I feel like at the beginning of the year I was good as a catch-and-shoot guy," Brown said. "It kind of fell off a little bit in the later part of the season. As far as what I have to work on, I would say I need to tighten up my ball-handling and work on reads coming off of ball screens."
It was an up-and-down rookie campaign for the 6-foot-4 Brown, who acquitted himself reasonably well as a defender but struggled to shoot consistently.
Brown scored nine points in two of his first three games as a Buffalo but matched that total just three times the rest of the year, scoring a season-best 15 points against Division II Fort Hays State and posting 10-point games at Air Force and at home against Stanford. While Brown went 10-for-25 on 3-pointers in nonconference games, he went just 6-for-26 (.231) from long range in Pac-12 Conference play, including a pair of league tournament games.
While head coach Tad Boyle has lauded Brown's potential as a perimeter defender, as a sophomore the Buffs hope to see improvements on shooting percentages that included a .368 mark overall from the floor and a .704 mark at the free throw line.
"We want to get him stronger. I don't know if he'll ever be a big, strong, bruising guy because of his body type, but of his body type, but he's got to get stronger," Boyle said. "And he has to become a consistent knock-down shooter. He was streaky as a freshman and we can't have streaky shooters. We've have to have knock-down guys that when they're open, it's going in. That's a function of reps, getting in the gym, and working on it."
Given the postseason departures of Thomas Akyazili and fellow freshman Bryce Peters, Brown and classmate Lucas Siewert instantly became the most experienced players in a CU uniform outside the senior trio of George King, Dom Collier, and Tory Miller (Siewert appeared in one more game than Brown last year, 32 to 31, but Brown logged two more minutes). With five incoming freshmen in the mix the battle for rotation spots already has become a dogged one at CU's practices, and Brown understands he is in a heated competition with the Buffs' other smaller guards, Collier and freshman McKinley Wright, for playing time.
"We graduated some guys and we've got a lot of new guys coming in, so I'd say we've got a lot of fresh, fresh energy coming in," Brown said. "As a program we'll still pride ourselves on defense and rebounding, so that's not going anywhere. But I think we're committed to a fresh start, like year one, especially with all these new guys.
"Getting these practices in and then going over and competing in Italy, I think it will give us a little bit of a jump start and give the freshmen a little bit of a head start to what it's going to be like during the year."