Leigha Brown is no stranger to the Big Ten. 

The junior transfer from Nebraska comes to Ann Arbor this fall with a fresh start. Brown was vigorous on the court during her first two years as a Husker, becoming a starter by the end of her freshman year and the Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year last season. After scoring 11 points and earning five rebounds against Michigan in her Big Ten debut, Ann Arbor is her new home.

Brown won’t be eligible to play in 2020-21 barring a waiver granted by the NCAA. When she does take the floor for Michigan, the Wolverines will be getting a scorer.

Brown finished her Dekalb High School career with 1,798 points — 394 more than former rival and now fellow Wolverine junior Amy Dilk, who played nearby at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind.. Dilk and Brown went head-to-head in 2018 for the state’s Ms. Basketball Award, which Dilk took home. 

“One of her highlights was a game where she scored 53 points against Lakeland and she only took 27 shots,” Dekalb coach Brett Eltzroth said. “She shot 19-of-27 and 21-of-21 from the free throw line. We put a lot on her shoulder.”

Brown erupted on the college stage with a 30-point game, including four threes and 10 points from the line, against Purdue in January of her freshman year. A role player that could score, she earned a starting spot in Lincoln by early March, averaging 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Brown’s abilities gave the Cornhuskers a much-needed edge as the team prepared for a postseason run that season. 

Despite a 22-point performance by Brown, Nebraska’s campaign ended against the Wolverines in the first round of Big Ten play. She was given a lot of responsibility for a newcomer, but that was no surprise to Elzroth. 

“Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of those D1 or even D2 players around her so she made the people around her better,” Elzroth said. “They would double team her and she’d be able to find the open man a lot of the time.”

Nebraska went 17-13 last season with Brown playing a key role in their moderate success. Scoring double-digits in 23 of the Cornhuskers’ 30 games, Brown catapulted Nebraska  into overdrive on multiple occasions. Most notably was a 24-point game against Missouri.

In the final moments of the game, Brown kicked it out to sophomore Sam Haiby, who tied the game and sent the game into overtime. Brown showed her maturity and patience with the ball with the crucial assist. She put up five points in overtime as well to seal a victory for the Cornhuskers. 

Now, Brown finds herself in a different position. 

Transferring colleges as a student-athlete is a daunting task. Brown will be met with expectations from her teammates and will have to establish herself once again into a lineup. But now only two hours away from Indiana, she will be closer to family and friends in Auburn — a different situation from the 10-hour drive to Nebraska.

“I know there’s a lot of talent on that Michigan team coming back,” Elzroth said. “I think she’ll do a good job of trying to blend in. Doing her roll whatever the coaches decide for her.”

Multiple factors come in the way between seeing Brown in a Wolverines uniform this season — the coronavirus, transfer rules and competition within Michigan’s roster. Yet one thing is for certain — when Brown is given the chance to play, she’ll try to make the most of her time in Crisler Center.

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