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Not Meant To Be a Spectator

January 25, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames are 8-4 since Devon Brown returned from injury on Dec. 5.

The Lady Flames are 8-4 since Devon Brown returned from injury on Dec. 5.

The following article was first featured in the January edition of Flames Illustrated. Devon Brown has helped the Lady Flames win seven of their last eight games and leads the team with 13.1 ppg. Liberty will return to action Saturday at 7 p.m., with a Big South road contest at Winthrop.

When the basketball left her fingertips on March 14, 2010 with 4.2 seconds remaining in the game, she knew.

Devon Brown was sure that her final shot was going to drop, giving the Liberty Lady Flames their 13th Big South Championship title in 14 years. And she was right.

"It was the highlight of my career so far," Brown said, smiling at the memory. "I was scared, but I knew it was going in."

Her performance in the 2010 Big South Championship garnered Tournament MVP honors, capping off a successful season filled with accolades, including first-team All-Big South honors and being named the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) Rookie of the Year.

With so much success as a redshirt freshman, a lot of hype and expectation followed Brown into her sophomore campaign this season. She was ready for that, but unfortunately had to deal with something she wasn't ready for: a significant preseason injury. The setback kept her on the bench for the first seven games of the season.

And the 2010 Big South Preseason Player of the Year learned something about herself. She is just not meant to be a spectator.

"Being hurt really got to me," she admitted. "I worked so hard over the summer, and when the season started, it really affected me emotionally."

But Brown knew she had to be patient, a characteristic she honed during her first year at Liberty, when she sat out as a redshirt player. During that 2008-09 season, she says she got the opportunity to learn more basketball strategy, and she was also able to focus on academics. So while it was trying, she saw it as a blessing.

Her approach this season was similar, and despite the challenge of watching from the bench, she kept her cool until she was able to once again join her teammates on the floor. Wearing her familiar No. 40, she entered the game against James Madison on Dec. 5, and enjoyed 17 minutes of playing time.

That game was not only significant because it was her first game back, but it took place in Harrisonburg, Va., very close to Brown's hometown of Waynesboro. This made for a very special cheering section including her mom and dad, grandparents, cousins and friends.

"I knew I was going to play, so I was ready," she said. "I was really excited, but nervous. I shot an airball on my first shot."

But Brown settled down, finding her groove and scoring 14 points. Since that game, Brown has continued easing back in as she works on becoming fully healthy.

After scoring nine points at North Carolina Central and 10 points at VCU, Brown stepped in for her first game start of the season on Dec. 28 against No. 17 St. John's. She played 25 minutes in that contest, contributing 11 points and six rebounds.

But it was her second start of the year, the very next day, when she had her best performance since beginning her comeback. On Dec. 29, her team-leading 19 points helped the Lady Flames to a 73-53 victory over La Salle.

As of Dec. 29, after five game appearances, Brown was averaging a team-high 12.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

As Brown continues to work on her own skills, she's also working to help her young team improve. "We're very athletic," she said. "We're a hard-working team. But we need to work on defense and communication. We have a long road ahead of us, but we still want to be successful and get to the NCAA Tournament."

While the 5-10 guard/forward doesn't see herself as a leader, it's a role she's grown to accept. "It's not natural for me, being a leader," she admitted. "I do take on that role, but it's challenging. I'm very competitive and very emotional, and I just want to go out every game and play hard, and help my team win. That's it."

Brown says she's grown in many ways since first stepping foot on Liberty's campus two years ago. As a basketball player, she says she's matured on the court. As a person, the self-professed small-town girl has learned to come out of her shell.

And as she comes into her own, she's also had some special people to look up to. Last season, she stepped into the No. 40 Liberty jersey, the number formerly worn by Liberty great Megan Frazee. Brown says she learned a lot from Frazee, who now competes in the WNBA.

"She always taught me to play for the name on the front of your jersey, not the back," Brown said. "I always looked up to her. She told me if you work hard, you'll be blessed for the things you do."

Brown also looks up to her mother, Jennifer, who comes to every home game Brown competes in, regardless of whether she plays or not.

And as the Lady Flames move into conference play, Brown is ready to help lead her team to the success the program has become accustomed to. She knows that, along with the No. 1 preseason selection in the Big South Conference, comes added pressure and the idea that other teams are gunning for you. But she likes that.

"I love it," she said. "We have a bull's eye on our back. I like that because the game is more competitive. That's the way I've always loved to play."
Jennifer Shelton is an assistant athletic communications director for Liberty University.