RICHLANDS, Va. —
Ben Brown was a busy man last week.
The Richlands three-sport senior standout not only endured semester-ending exams, but also made four trips to Virginia High School in Bristol for the Alpha Natural Resources Classic at the Bearcat Den.
He didn’t just watch, he played...hard. Richlands boys basketball coach Jody Fuller never saw any let-up from Brown. He never does.
“What separates Ben Brown from anybody else is, I have never seen a kid play harder than Ben Brown,” Fuller said. “I have never seen a kid play harder in my life.
“He doesn’t always make the shot and might not always make the perfect decision — most of the time it is — but it is just unbelievable how hard he plays. If Ben makes an error, it was never because he wasn’t trying.”
That attitude paid dividends last week for Brown, who compiled three doubles-doubles and even one triple-double for the young Blue Tornado, which finished fourth in the eight-team event with a 2-2 record on the week.
“We knew it was going to be tough week coming in,” Brown said. “He told us to start studying the preceding weekend so we would not fall behind since we knew we would be out late several nights. We just had to concentrate on exams during the day and be ready to play after school.”
He was. All Brown did in four games was score 72 points and pull down 51 rebounds, and has been awarded the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award.
“I was actually kind of shocked,” said Brown, after hearing about the honor. “I have watched a few other teams recently and there are a lot of good basketball players in Southwest Virginia this year.
“It is tough to play with these guys. I was pretty excited when I heard.”
It was well-earned.
“Four straight game in four straight nights and three doubles-doubles and a triple-double,” Fuller said. “That would be hard to beat.”
Brown contributed 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a win over John Battle, and added 17 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in another victory over Happy Valley, Tenn.
That is 11 assists from the 4-position on the floor, which is Brown’s first season playing around the rim after two years at shooting guard.
“I didn’t realize I had 11 assists until Monday when Coach Fuller told me,” said Brown, who is surrounded by one other senior and six talented freshmen, including Luke Phillips, Cody Fuller and Ethan Ratliff, all of whom had double figures in points in two games apiece last week. “My main goal was to take the ball to the rim, and I had help off the wing.
“Cody Fuller is ‘bullseye’ from the wing, it is great having him to be able to kick out to. These younger guys, they have shot a lot of basketball, and they can do it very well.”
Brown continued his torrid pace over the final two days of the tournament, contributing 18 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and one assist in a winner’s bracket loss to talented Lebanon, and added 18 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to University High in the third place game.
“It is a lot different going from the perimeter to the post, but I have gotten bigger the last couple of years,” said the 6-foot-1 Brown. “I am doing my best to bang around down there with those guys.”
Through six games and a 3-3 record for the Blue Tornado, Brown is averaging a double-double, with 15 points and 13 rebounds a game.
“I am doing my best to do what I can individually, but the win is more important,” Brown said. “After you get the win, then you can look back and see how you did in the game. I have been a little unhappy with a couple of games, but I can’t complain too much.”
Neither can Fuller, who is in his third season leading the Blues.
“He had played shooting guard for us the last two years,” Fuller said. “This year with our youth and the lack of overall team size, and he was our leading rebounder last year so we moved him from the 2-spot to the 4.
“He has responded with double-figure rebounding every night. When you are averaging a double-double you are playing pretty hard.”
Playing hard is nothing new for Brown. It goes with the genes.
“I can it the ‘Brown Motor,’” Fuller said. “He comes from a long line of athletes in that family. They have just got that motor and they go and go and they don’t seem to get tired.”
Until Ben Mulkey broke the record a few years ago, Brown’s brother, Timmy, held the school record for points scored. His other brothers, C.P and Jono, were also talented athletes, and Brown’s youngest sibling, Daniel, is an eighth grader on the Richlands’ junior varsity squad.
“It is just natural for me,” said Brown, whose sister, Bethany, was also an athlete at Richlands. “I have played sports all my life. I have a lot of brothers and it was always very competitive. I had to go 100 percent to be able to succeed, and that carries over to playing in school.”
His all-out style of play is Brown’s way to setting an example for the rest of the Blues.
“He is a leader,” Fuller added. “Ben is not very outspoken. He definitely leads by example. I think he prefers to do it that way.”
“That is another reason I play hard all the time,” said Brown. “It kind of keeps everybody upbeat. A lot of times they will see you are going hard, it rubs off when they see you are going to hard too.”
That goes for more than just basketball. Brown just completed a stellar campaign for the Richlands football team, and is looking forward to his senior season on the baseball diamond.
“It is tough to decide, but I think baseball is probably my favorite, and football and basketball fall in there together,” Brown said.
That doesn’t mean Brown isn’t excited for hoops.
“It is nice being in a compact setting in a gym,” he said. “I love the hype of the big crowds going crazy in the gym, it is just a great atmosphere.”
Richlands has already reached its win total from last season, which was three. The Blues were hampered by injuries and defections, but Brown likes what he sees from a team that will only get better as the year continues on.
“We do have a lot better opportunity to have a good season this year,” said Brown, whose Blues visit Lebanon next Friday. “We are young, but these guys have played a lot of basketball. They can play. I think we will be able to have a better season than we had the last couple of years. I think our basketball program is going in the right direction.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Player of Week Honorable Mention
Bland County: Tyler Faulkner 12 points; Jonah Miller 12 points, 12 rebounds; Mason Christian 10 points vs. Eastern Montgomery.
Bluefield: Anthony Eades, 21 points, 9 rebounds and 6 steals vs. Graham, 22 points vs. Oak Hill, 20 vs. Mount View; Michael Yost 15 points (5 threes) and 4 rebounds vs. Graham; 12 points vs. Mount View; Corey Coppola, 14 points, 16 rebounds in 3 games; Lykel Collier, 21 points, 15 assists, 7 steals; D.J. Edwards 12 points and 4 rebounds vs. Graham; Azir Price 14 points vs. Mount View.
Council: Zack Tiller 31 points in 2 games; Josh Viers, 51 points in 3 games.
Giles: John Shelor, 51 points in 2 games; Trenton Ray, 14 points vs. Narrows in 1 game, Charlie Stephens 13 points, Kory Wilson, 11 points.
Graham: Roman Workman,15 points, 8 rebounds; Tony Hood 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds vs. Bluefield.
Grundy: Charles McCoy 25; Wes Peck 17 vs. Tazewell.
Honaker: Randy Horton, 33 points in 2 games; Hunter Lester 35 points; Casey Dye 22 points; Tyler Hale 12 points vs. Tazewell; Austin Ray 10 points vs. Chilhowie.
Hurley: Nick Gibson, 37 points in 3 games; Dylan Billiter, 24 points in 2 games; Billy Stacy 11 points vs. John Battle.
Mercer Christian: Chandler Scott 18 points, Caleb Janning 15 points, J.J. Easter 12 points in win over Seneca Trail.
Narrows: Chandler Burton, 33 points in 2 games; Austin Lively 16 points vs. Craig County; Brandon Spangler 15 points vs. Rural Retreat; Rodney Perdue, 36 points in 2 games; Gavin Givens, 21 points in 2 games.
PikeView: Jason Weitzel 11 points vs. Mount View; Bradley Flinchum 18 points vs. Oak Hill.
Richlands: Cody Fuller, 37 points in two games; Luke Phillips, 51 points in 2 games; Ethan Ratliff 13 points vs. John Battle.
Summers County: T.J. Smith 19 points vs. Liberty; Jacob Lively, 29 points in 2 games; Matt Ryan, 42 points in 2 games.
Tazewell: Juwan Jordan, 52 points in 3 games; Colin Hancock, 45 points in 3 games; Isyah Hagy 24 points in 2 games; Tanner Catron, 25 points in 2 games; Jessee Mountain 12 points vs. Honaker; Malik Davis 12 points vs. Council.
Editor’s Note: Coaches are urged to make recommendations for this award. Call 304-327-2813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org before Tuesday at 4 p.m.