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"I Have to Show Up for The U"

"I Have to Show Up for The U"

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

MIAMI – When he took the floor at Miami-Dade Arena on Monday, Bruce Brown sported plenty of the blue and gold featured on the Denver Nuggets’ Mile High City jerseys.

Even the headband that’s become part of his signature look was blue.

But his feet? Those were decked in orange and green, an homage to the place where Brown starred as a collegian, the place where he says he honed his game and developed the skills to succeed on basketball’s biggest stage: the NBA.

“Every time I come down, I have to show up for The U. I mean, I love being a Hurricane,” Brown said hours before the Nuggets took on the Miami Heat. “I wouldn’t be in this position today if I didn’t go to Miami, I feel. Just made a great decision to come down here, meet the people I’ve met and [Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga] put me in the right position to be here.”

On Monday, that meant starting for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, playing 32 minutes and scoring 16 points in Denver’s 112-108 victory over the Heat that snapped Miami’s three-game win streak.

This season – Brown’s first in Denver after spending the last two years with the Brooklyn Nets – the guard/forward is averaging 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

His ability to play multiple positions has made Brown a regular contributor for Denver and on Monday, earned him praise from Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

“I think Bruce’s greatest strength and attribute for us has been his versatility,” Malone said. “You talk about a guy that’s literally started at the 1, 2, and 3. He’s come off the bench and played the 1, 2, and 3…Jamal [Murray’s] out, Bruce starts at the 1. Jamal’s in, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s] out, put Bruce at the 2. He’s been a starting 3 as well.

“I love the versatility and on top of that, I just love his toughness. He’s a tough kid. Obviously played for Coach Larrañaga down here at Miami. [He’s] from Boston. Just a really tough kid who doesn’t back down and who’s been a fantastic addition to our team.”

For his part, Brown credits Larrañaga and his time at Miami with helping him develop that versatility.

In his two seasons in Coral Gables, Brown averaged 11.6 points despite being limited as a sophomore by a late-season foot injury. He was twice recognized as the ACC Rookie of the Week and nine games into his college career, notched the second triple-double in program history when he scored 11 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and had 10 assists in a win over South Carolina State.

He’d add another triple-double in 2017 when he had 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 77-45 win over Gardner-Webb.

“Coach L put the ball in my hands and let me make plays in big-time games, big-time shots,” Brown said. “The trust and confidence that I have on the floor, I credit that to Coach L…He was huge for me. As you all know, my recruiting process wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. I didn’t really talk to anybody until I wanted to make a decision my senior year [of high school] and Coach L just always stuck by me, texting me even though I wasn’t texting back. When I got here, [he had] the utmost confidence in me since Day One that I got on campus. I appreciate him a lot.”

And while Brown was the lone Hurricane on the floor at the Miami-Dade Arena on Monday, up until last week’s NBA trade deadline, he shared the Denver locker room with another former Miami standout: Los Angeles Lakers guard Davon Reed.

Reed earned a spot on the Nuggets’ roster last summer after playing on multiple 10-day contracts last season. Prior to that, Reed had appeared in 94 career G-League games and had limited NBA experience with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers.

“I’m hoping he gets a big opportunity in LA and thrives,” Brown said of Reed. “He’s a true professional. Davon’s one of the best guys you could ever meet. He was out of the league and got back in the league…you don’t know how hard that is. He puts the work in. Great dude. Knows how to play the game the right way and forever my guy.”

And like Brown, Reed starred at Miami under Larrañaga.

He was a part of the 2015-16 Hurricanes team that made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, started 84 straight games and was an All-ACC Defensive Team selection in 2017, playing alongside Brown.

The success he and Brown both had at Miami are reasons Brown says he hopes more top-notch prospects consider playing for the Hurricanes, who have only continued to thrive under Larrañaga in recent years.

In fact, while Brown and the Nuggets were facing the Heat, the 15th-ranked Hurricanes notched an 80-72 victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill to extend their win streak to five and improve to 21-5 overall and 12-4 in ACC play.

That performance didn’t go unnoticed. By the time Brown left Miami-Dade Arena, he’d already made sure to learn the score of the game.

“I just feel like more recruits need to give Miami a chance…It’s a private school, a great school, great campus and now, they’re playing really well,” Brown said. “I hope more recruits give it a chance.”