Hereford High grad Heather Brown is averaging 13 points a game since was inserted into the Zias’ starting lineup six games ago because of an injury. CNJ photo by Rick White.
By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University freshman guard Heather Brown expected an adjustment coming off the bench this season. She had been a starter most of her high school career.
The adjustment didn’t last long as the 5-foot-7 Brown found herself thrust into starting lineup again six games ago in place of junior point guard Kristi McGuire, who sprained an ankle just after the holiday break.
While she maintains whether or not she starts doesn’t matter, the numbers tell a different story.
In nine games off the bench, Brown had just two games in double figures despite playing an average of 25 minutes a night. In six as the starting point guard, she’s had four double-digit outings, including two games of at least 20 points, while averaging 35 minutes.
“I’m comfortable starting, but I don’t mind coming off the bench,” said Brown, who began her high school career at Amarillo Tascosa before transferring to Hereford as a junior. “I wasn’t expecting to start as a freshman. I just thought that when (ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard) told me I was going to start, I knew I couldn’t play like I was a freshman.”
Thursday night, Brown joined the Zias’ other four starters in double figures with 14 points — missing only a 3-pointer — as ENMU (7-8) rode a school-record 68 percent field goal performance to an 84-63 LSC crossover win over Tarleton State at Greyhound Arena.
Although she had eight turnovers against the TexAnns — a problem that has plagued the Zias most of the season — she added seven rebounds and six assists to her individual line.
Brown is scoring nine points a game — 13 per outing since becoming a starter.
“The main thing about Heather Brown is she’s a competitor,” Buzard said. “She wants to win as bad as anybody, and she’s not afraid to take big shots for us.”
A point guard in high school, Brown began the season as a shooting guard before moving back to the point after McGuire’s injury.
She followed up perhaps her best game — a 20-point performance with 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range in an 81-70 win at Southwestern Oklahoma last week — with a shaky outing in Tuesday’s 80-73 South Division loss at rival West Texas A&M.
“It seemed like everything I shot was going in (at Southwestern),” Brown said. “(At WT) it seemed like every time I touched the ball I had a turnover. I was really nervous; we needed to win, just to be 2-0 in the conference and show that the first one (a 76-57 ENMU triumph at Portales in December) wasn’t a fluke.”
Buzard realizes Brown is more suited to point guard, and probably better as a starter than coming off the bench.
“She sees the floor pretty good,” he said. “Heather Brown’s a clutch player, and she’s usually pretty good with the ball. She’s probably as good at pushing the ball as anybody in the (Lone Star) Conference.
“I think she feels more comfortable when she’s out there from the start.”