|Lorenzo Brown ranks right up at the top when talking about the best point guards in college. (US Presswire)|
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Pressey, Trey Burke, Aaron Craft. Those are the guys most consider the cream of the crop in a fairly deep point guard contingent heading into the season.
Add Lorenzo Brown to that elite group.
North Carolina State's junior point guard has taken his game to a new level, one that will ultimately put him with the top floor leaders in the nation. One year ago, shortly after new coach Mark Gottfried anointed him as the full-time point guard, Brown was consistently making poor decisions with the ball in his hands.
"I definitely questioned whether I could do it," Brown said about running the team. "I was always frustrated in practice and in the preseason. I wasn't making the right decisions."
Brown was always a scoring guard, someone who was certainly versatile enough to play both backcourt positions but was almost always played at shooting guard because of his size and ability to score. Then it all changed when Ryan Harrow bolted for Kentucky following the coaching change. Gottffried said he would have moved Brown to the point even if Harrow had remained, but who knows how that would have played out.
I remember seeing Brown in March in Columbus when he nearly put up a triple-double (17 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) against San Diego State. Two days later I watched him go for 12 points, seven assists and six boards against Georgetown as he helped lead NC State to a Sweet 16 appearance. He wound up averaging 12.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 boards per game -- not bad for a guy who managed to fly under the radar for the most part.
Brown was terrific in the NCAA tournament -- and he elevated his play this past offseason.
Now he's become consistent while running the team. He pushes the ball when needed and creates easy opportunities for his teammates. Expect him to improve upon his 35 percent from beyond the arc a year ago. He's quick and athletic enough to get to the basket and strong enough to finish once he gets there -- and he also brings it on the defensive end of the floor. He's also got the size (6-foot-6 with shoes) that most of his peers at the point guard spot don't possess.
I honestly can't find a weakness in his game.
I love Pressey, but he's small and doesn't shoot it great. Burke is terrific, especially as a shooter, but he's not a great athlete. He is also small in stature and needs to work on the defensive end. Craft is the best perimeter defender in the nation, but his perimeter shot needs work. Brown has it all.
Maybe it's a lack of a vocal presence, but that's nit-picking. Then again, that's what you start to do with well-round players such as Brown, attempt to find something that needs work. Right now there's not much.
"I wouldn't trade him for anyone," Gottfried said. "And he's only getting better."
Usually, I shake my head with skepticism when coaches lay out that line -- unless they are talking about LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant. But I'm not sure I'd trade Brown for any point guard in the nation right now. Even Pressey, our Preseason First-Team All-American.
"I respect all of their games," Brown said of the point guards who are ranked in front of him. "I watch highlights of all of them to pick up what they do well."
By the end of the season, they'll also be watching Brown.