GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Horizon League Player of the Year candidate Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) found himself in the first group on Wednesday night as the Green Bay men's basketball team opened individual workouts inside the Dick Bennett Gym. Alongside two newcomers and a sophomore, Brown stood out. But, in this case, it was not because of his size, talent or even experience, but because of his voice.
Now a junior, the 7-foot-1 and generally soft-spoken Brown had been challenged by head coach Brian Wardle. If he did not talk to his teammates at every possible moment during the 40-minute workout, fellow junior and good friend Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.), who was in the next group, would have some extra conditioning.
"As a coach, one of my jobs is to motivate, and every player is motivated differently," Wardle said. "One thing I know is that Alec is a great guy who cares so much about his teammates. Holding him accountable through his teammates is a motivating approach for him. We have the type of team right now that has each other's backs and cares deeply about each other, and they do not want to let their teammates down."
Brown had become increasingly more vocal during his two years since arriving on campus as a 17-year old, but Wednesday he was taking it to another level. He was vocal, even loud at times, while shouting instruction and encouragement to his younger teammates.
At the end of the workout, as he grabbed some water and entered the locker room, Cerroni stepped onto the court to start the next group. He was greeted by Wardle's instructions for a sprint. It was only one down and back, but a message nonetheless that Brown was not there yet.
Wardle said to Cerroni, "Kam, that is for the one time that "AB" didn't talk today. Not quite good enough."
"I think I forgot to talk one time while catching my breath," Brown said in the locker room. "I enjoyed the challenge coach Wardle put on me, and I have to keep working on it."
Brown is the unquestioned focal point of a now more experienced Phoenix team. He enters his junior year still just 20-years old, but already having amassed 739 points, 425 rebounds and a school-record 156 blocks in 62 career games. The 2011-12 First-Team All-Horizon League selection is more than 30 pounds stronger than when he stepped onto campus in 2010, and is getting used to being one of the old guys.
"It is really weird, and I am still getting used to being an upperclassmen," Brown said. "I am working to be more of a leader, to be more vocal and to take more responsibility. It is good to have more pressure to be more vocal."
He and his teammates started classes for the fall semester on Tuesday after being away from campus for the month of August.
"The break was nice," said Brown. "I felt like we all needed to get home to see our family and friends but also to keep working to continue to get better. The first workout tonight was really good. We all hit it hard to get better today, and it was a good night."
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