Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Of bad memories and brotherly bonds

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 3, 2011

When the workouts come so quickly, you can easily become numb to the process. Another day, another handful of guys coming through, some legitimate NBA prospects, others not so much.

Along comes a day like today, however, to remind you why these opportunities must be appreciated.

Maybe there weren't any elite prospects among the six that worked out for the Pacers Friday on the practice court at Conseco Fieldhouse, but there were some impressive and interesting stories.

Brown moving past bad Butler memory

Start with Gilbert Brown.

The name was rattling around in the back of my head for a reason I couldn't quite recall until Michael Marot of The Associated Press jogged the memory. Brown was the guy that missed the free throw with 1.4 seconds left that left the door open for Butler's 71-70 upset of top-seeded Pitt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Brown was the guy fouled inexplicably near midcourt by Butler's Shelvin Mack. He made the first free throw to tie it but missed the second. Pitt's Nasir Robinson then fouled Butler's Matt Howard battling for rebound position, and Howard made the game-winner with eight-tenths of a second left.

You remember that, but you forget Brown had 24 points, made 8-of-11 shots including 4-of-5 from the arc, with four rebounds and three assists in that game.

"It's tough, it's tough," said Brown of the memory. "That whole game, just looking back at it, the ups and downs of it, going through it, and then coming down to those final seconds with the fouls and the missed free throw, it was tough to swallow at the time but you have to move on because there's to come for me with my professional career.

"You think of it as the past and a moment lost but it only motivates you to be a better player."

Brown averaged 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists for Pitt and is trying to climb onto the draft radar. His is not a popular name in mock drafts, not even in those that project the second round.

"One of the biggest things I'm trying to demonstrate is that I'm a defensive stopper," he said. "I'm capable of guarding one through four at any moment in the game. I'm also a reliable shooter. I want to show them I'm more of a player than they already think I am coming out of Pitt."

Not separated at birth, but soon by the NBA

Markieff Morris is not only trying to carve his own identity as a draft prospect, he's preparing to play basketball without his twin brother for the first time in his life.

He teamed with Marcus through three seasons at Kansas and of course through Prep Charter High (Pa.) and Apex Academy (N.J.) during their high school years. Marcus was always the top scorer, Markieff the defender and rebounder.

"We've always had differences," said Markieff. "I'm a big, he was more of a guard playing big at Kansas because he's versatile. I'm more of a banger, he's more of a three man."

Though both stand 6-9, Markieff has a more traditional big-man frame, with broad shoulders and long arms. Marcus has a better shooting stroke. Both could be drafted in the top half of the first round, with Marcus generally projected as the better prospect.

Is there a brotherly competition to see who goes first?

"It doesn't matter at all," said Markieff. "It might matter down the road, but right now we're both hoping to get drafted and hoping to produce."

So what will it be like, playing without his twin teammate for the first time?

"Shoot, I'm playing without him now, you know what I mean?" Markieff said with a smile. "I've been with him for 21 years. When that time comes I'm definitely going to be prepared for it."

Hoping to follow in George's footsteps

Greg Smith refers to Paul George as his brother, although the two are technically not related.

But Smith is trying to follow his former Fresno State teammate into the NBA, possibly with the Pacers.

"That'd be crazy (to be teammates again)," said Smith. "It'd be great, because he's my brother. Watching him, it's like he's an older brother. Watching him might help me learn the NBA game a little faster.

"Every game I could (this past season), I watched him. I love watching him play because he goes down on the floor, he's going to take charges, he's going to play hard. That's what motivates players. I just love watching him play."

After being named the conference freshman of the year while teaming with George, the 6-9, 252-pound power forward followed up with averages of 11.7 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore.

He believes the attention George brought to the program helped shine enough light on his game to help him emerge as an NBA prospect.