When Michael Brown speaks, he does so directly and honestly. It’s a quality that’s likely served him well during his 15 years as a youth counselor in Henrico. He’s trying to help troubled kids get their lives in order. Sugarcoating things isn’t going to get it done.
Brown isn’t afraid to say that he thinks today’s ballplayers could be tougher. That’s why when Brown says he respects Bradford Burgess and his accomplishments, you know he’s not pulling any punches. On Dec. 22, at UNC Greensboro, Burgess started the 122nd straight game of his VCU career to break Brown’s school record, which had stood since 1986. Brown agrees that Burgess is a bit of a throwback player.
“He’s doing what the coach likes him to do, playing the role he wants him to,” said Brown, who averaged 11.3 points per game for the Rams from 1982-86. “That’s why I take my hat off to him for that. I respect that. He’s coachable.”
Brown is a Hopewell, Va. native and now resides in Chesterfield. In addition to his work as a youth counselor, he’s also an assistant basketball coach at Hopewell High School. When he can, he likes to take his two sons to VCU games. Brown says he makes it to about half the Rams’ home contests and attended the Final Four in Houston, Texas in April.
Burgess has never met Brown, but both men expressed a desire to shake hands and talk sometime in the near future. If and when they do meet, they’ll likely have a lot to talk about. There are quite a few similarities between the two players.
Despite scoring 1,369 points as a four-year starter, Brown never led the Rams in scoring in any season. Brown, Jamal Shuler and Joey Rodriguez are the only 1,000-point scorers in VCU history to do that. That’s because Brown thrived as the “glue guy” of some of the best teams in program history.
Remind you of anyone you know? While Burgess will likely lead the team in scoring this year, he’s made a career for himself not so much as a star, but as a guy who makes his teammates better, a facilitator. He plays unselfishly, takes good shots and fills a role.
Those similarities have not been lost on some longtime observers of VCU Basketball. Brown said that while talking to former coaches and teammates like Calvin Duncan, J.D. Barnett and Tubby Smith at the Final Four, many of them said the very same thing.
“I had at least 5-6 people come up to me and say that Burgess and I have the same type of game,” Brown said. “It’s hard to critique yourself, but he’s unselfish and I like that about him. He makes pretty good decisions.”
Burgess is also similar in his admiration for Brown’s accomplishments. He’s never seen Brown play, but that’s immaterial. Burgess doesn’t necessarily need to know that Brown, by all accounts, was the Rams’ best defender and locked horns with future NBA players Dell Curry, Johnny Newman and Pearl Washington. He doesn’t need to know what Brown, like himself, was a selective and accurate shooter. He just knows that Brown was one of the best players on three NCAA Tournament teams, including one that finished the year ranked 11th in the nation. That’s good enough for him.
“He was a part of a great team, so I know he’s a winner and he has to be a great player if he’s getting all those starts,” Burgess, who also passed Brown on the Rams’ career scoring list during the UNC Greensboro game, said.
Both players have been unquestioned winners. VCU went 85-36 (.703), earned three NCAA bids and won three NCAA Tournament games during Brown’s career. Meanwhile, the Rams are 90-34 (.726), have claimed two NCAA berths and won five NCAA Tournament contests in Burgess’ three-plus seasons.
Burgess, while understated, is happy for this slice of VCU lore, not so much for the gaudy statistic’s exterior, but for what it represents.
“It’s a great thing to accomplish,” Burgess, who is averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season, said. “It means that you’ve got to play in a lot of ballgames. You’ve got to win a lot of games to get there.”
Michael Brown would most likely approve of that sentiment.
TALE OF THE TAPE: VCU IRON MEN
……………………………Bradford Burgess………Michael Brown
Hometown……………….Midlothian, Va. ………..Hopewell, Va.
Height, Weight………….6-6, 225…………………..6-5, 198
Consecutive Starts…….124* ………………………..121
* – as of Jan. 3