Gilbert Brown looks to NBA future, not NCAA miss

Gilbert Brown made the big shots look routine in college. It’s

the one he missed that will be remembered in Pittsburgh.

Now focused on his future professional career, Brown is trying

to prove to NBA scouts that there’s more to his game than just an

errant free throw.

”It does linger on a little bit,” said Brown, whose miss with

1.4 seconds left led to Butler’s stunning second-round NCAA

tournament upset in March. ”It’s kind of like a couple of years

ago when (Villanova’s) Scottie Reynolds hit that layup. You’re

always going to have those kind of moments.”

They’re just not easy to forget, especially when you have the

kind of game Brown did that day.

The 6-foot-6 forward scored a team-high 24 points against Butler

and had a chance to save the top-seeded Panthers’ season when

Shelvin Mack inexplicably fouled Brown near midcourt with 1.4

seconds to go. Mack later called it the dumbest foul in Butler

history.

Brown responded by making the first free throw to tie the score

at 70, but missed the second shot. Butler forward Matt Howard

grabbed the rebound and Nasir Robinson, even more inexplicably,

fouled Howard 85 feet from the basket. Howard made the first shot

to break the tie and missed the second intentionally to burn time

and send Butler into the regional round for the second straight

year.

Brown and his teammates went home early again.

On Friday, Brown’s whirlwind tour of nearly a dozen NBA cities

took him to Indianapolis, where he worked out in front of Larry

Bird and the Pacers. Brown said he neither had timed or the desire

to visit Butler’s campus, six miles away.

Not surprisingly, Brown seemed to know he would have to relive

the March misery all over.

”A lot of people were talking to me, saying it wasn’t my fault,

that it’s just part of the game,” Brown said after the workout in

Indy. ”You know, I tried to ignore it. But as soon as I got home,

it was on SportsCenter, so I had to watch the game again.”

Those who have played basketball at the highest levels

understand what Brown has gone through the last 2 1/2 months.

Two of the six players in Brown’s group, San Diego State’s

Malcolm Thomas and Kansas’ Markieff Morris, were eliminated earlier

than expected last season. Pacers forward Josh McRoberts, a former

Duke player, still remembers the times he missed critical free

throws at the ends of games.

It happens to everyone if you play long enough.

”I don’t think you ever forget it,” McRoberts said. ”It’s

tough to sleep at night, so you can’t forget it.”

Especially when it’s replayed time and again on television and

referred to constantly as one of the wackiest finishes in NCAA

tourney history.

Thomas, one of Brown’s teammates at another NBA camp in

Portsmouth, Va., remembers seeing the replays.

”I never asked him about it because I know how it feels,”

Thomas said. ”It’s probably the toughest thing I’ve had to deal

with, to get that close and lose, it’s just tough to put it behind

you.”

Brown has tried to do it.

After running the gamut of emotions in the immediate aftermath,

Brown finally went back and watched tape of the game. His

conclusion was that the Panthers made too many mistakes before The

Miss to win the game.

That hasn’t made chasing his NBA dream any easier. When the NBA

handed out invitations to the combine in Chicago, Brown didn’t make

the list.

Then teams started calling to line up the workouts and Brown

accepted every invitation. The tour stops include Indy, Houston,

Phoenix, Los Angeles Washington and Detroit, among others.

”I want to show them that I’m a defensive stopper, that I’m

capable of guarding anyone from one to four, that I’m a reliable

shooter, too,” Brown said. ”I want to show them that I’m more of

a player than they think I am.”

And that he’s over the sting of losing to Butler.

”Looking back, you look at the last two teams we lost to

(Butler and UConn), and you felt like you could have been there,”

Brown said, referring to the two teams that played for the national

championship. ”It’s tough, it’s tough.”