Chaundee Brown shines in Michigan debut
Chaundee Brown backpedaled then bounced his way down the floor, flashing a grin.
The senior guard had just drained a catch-and-shoot three-pointer on the wing, his third consecutive basket. Michigan’s offense was humming and Brown was its catalyst, his personal 8-2 scoring run stretching the Wolverines’ lead to a game-high 14 early in the second half.
“He gave us a big spark,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s the type of guy where he’s embracing just by being here and doing whatever it takes to help the team. You’ve got to really commend a guy who is all in and Chaundee’s the definition of being a guy that’s all in.”
Brown finished the 96-82 win over Bowling Green with a team-high 19 points. Most notably, he shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. For Brown, the success vindicated hours of repetition and hard work.
“I’ve been in the gym all summer, just working on my shot,” Brown said. “I knew the offense that Coach Howard runs and Michigan runs. I knew that I had to be able to shoot the ball way better than I shot it last year. … All I could do was get in the gym and work on my shot. And I’ve been doing that before, after practice, all the time. And it showed tonight.”
In three years at Wake Forest, Brown’s 3-point struggles were pronounced. Not once did he eclipse 34% from deep. Last season, he made 19-of-58 three-pointers, a 33% mark.
Brown has maintained that he is a better shooter than the numbers seem to indicate. A torn calf muscle suffered in January — which caused him to miss eight games — exacerbated the issues. Prior to the injury, Brown shot 11-of-26 from deep, a 40% mark. Though unwilling to use the injury as an excuse, Brown noted that it hampered his ability.
When Brown arrived at Michigan, he changed little with regards to his actual mechanics, rather tweaking his on-court approach.
“Just being shot ready,” Brown said. “That’s it, really. They knew I had a good form. Just being shot ready, moving to the open spot when people drive, stuff like that. Just gotta shoot the ball with confidence.”
Against Bowling Green, Brown did so with ease. He repeatedly found himself alone on the perimeter, the beneficiary of dribble-drives from the likes of graduate transfer guard Mike Smith and senior forward Isaiah Livers. Multiple times, he stood with his arms outstretched high above his head, signaling to his teammates. And once he received a pass, he wasted little time pulling the trigger.
Confidence not an issue, the success quickly followed suit.
In an offense that looked crisp and fluid with Smith at the helm, Brown wasn’t needed in the playmaking realm. In 3-point shooting, he adds a dimension to the offense that Michigan sorely needs. Last season, the Wolverines shot just 34% from beyond the arc, 145th in the nation. In the first half, last year’s struggles persisted — Michigan shot just 31% from three.
Brown’s scintillating second half made for an instant remedy.
He canned a corner three off a pass from a slashing Livers. He drilled another off a kick from Smith. He knocked down one more from the top of the key off a shovel feed from senior guard Eli Brooks.
And yet Brown flashed more than just his 3-point shooting. In the first half, his offensive feats were largely tamed, notching a lone free throw. His impact rested in areas that can’t be quantified by a box score.
Paired with sophomore forward Franz Wagner on the wing, Brown showcased his lauded athleticism and defensive aptitude. The duo contested shots and walled off dribble-drives, their length making for a bright spot in what was otherwise a defensive performance that left more to be desired.
“Coach Howard came to me and told me he needs me to come off the bench and inspire the second group and inspire the first group like I have been at practice, being active,” Brown said. “I started it on the defensive end today. … Making the opponent with the ball in front of me uncomfortable, making them feel like they’re about to give it up.”
On offense, Brown fit in seamlessly. In a system that emphasizes pushing the tempo, Brown looked at home in transition.
For Brown, while the results were promising, there remains a long way to go. One game is a small-sample size, and three seasons of 3-point struggles at Wake Forest still carry more weight. Learning the playbook, too, is a work in progress. It’s something that Brown still reads on a nightly basis, scanning through different sets for a half hour before he goes to sleep.
As a transfer, ups and downs are to be expected. The empty gym sessions spent putting up shots prove that he’s willing to put in the requisite work to push forward.
“I feel like I did that... bring a lot of energy and intensity,” Brown said. “I feel like I did that today. I just gotta keep it up.”