Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
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SURVIVAL SKILLS: Princeton University women’s basketball player Tani Brown fields questions at the program’s recent media day. Overcoming a knee injury and adapting to her role as a reserve, senior co-captain Brown has emerged as a leader for the Tigers.

Brown Learns to Adapt to a Variety of Roles, Emerges as Leader for PU Women’s Hoops

Bill Alden

Tani Brown first drew attention from Princeton University coaches for her cross country prowess.

With a resume that included a California state title and two regional crowns, Los Angles native Brown spent a lot of time with women’s cross country and track coach Peter Farrell when she came across the country to check out Princeton in 2005.

As an afterthought, she introduced herself to Tiger women’s basketball coach Richard Barron since hoops was her second sport.

As Brown went through her senior year at the Brentwood School, she came to realize that basketball was the sport that she wanted to focus on in college.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to make the commitment to run all year round,” recalled the 5’7 Brown.

“I just knew that I wanted to play basketball because it is a more social sport. In my senior year, I started to do much better in basketball and get recruited by some more schools.”

With point guard Brown averaging 15.1 points a game in her senior season and Barron needing help in the backcourt, Princeton was back in the picture.

“Coach Barron flew out and he watched one of my games and I had a lucky game and he liked what he saw,” said Brown. “I sent the application in a few days later and I was the last recruit to join the Class of 2010.”

As Princeton opens its 2009-10 season on November 13 with a game at Stony Brook, Brown and Cheryl Stevens are the last two members of their class remaining in the program.

Brown’s Princeton career hasn’t taken a smooth trajectory. She tore her ACL before coming to college and got into only 11 games in her debut campaign. Brown started the first nine games of her sophomore season and then got relegated to the bench, making only 10 more appearance that winter. As a junior, Brown moved further down the Tiger rotation, getting into 13 games and playing a grand total of 56 minutes.

“It has just been a crazy experience, I had one year under Richard Barron and three years with coach [Courtney] Banghart,” said Brown.

“I have just had a roller-coaster of an experience but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world because it has forced me to take on different roles at different times.”

This winter, Brown will have a major leadership role as she and Stevens will serve as the team co-captains.

“We came from a class of six and now to be in a class of two is really a big honor,” said Brown, reflecting on being named captain.

“There is such talent in the classes beneath me that I am really just excited to lead them on and off the floor. It really motivated me to get into the gym this summer and to just work hard. Our approach is to do the walking before the talking and to try and set an example. I can’t tell my team to do something if I don’t do it correctly myself.”

Tiger head coach Banghart likes the way Brown and Stevens have handled their duties so far.

“I can’t say enough about our captains,” said Banghart. “I think they are really imparting that this is definitely a finite experience. ‘I was in your shoes and it felt like yesterday and now this is my last chance.’ I think that they will really help our kids with their perspective.”

With Princeton having improved to 14-14 last season from the 7-23 record it posted in 2007-08, Brown believes the Tigers have a chance to win the Ivy League title.

“I think last year was a big turning point for us because we had such an athletic team that really bought into the new motion offense,” said Brown, noting the the Tigers went 9-5 in Ivy play last season to rise to third in the league standings.

“I think our team tried to step up the occasion every single game. You might not always win every time but to just say that I am going to show up and compete is the first step. This year, it is taking that extra step forward and saying I am not just going to compete, I am going to win. I would be very disappointed if we didn’t win an Ivy League championship.”

But no matter how things turn out on the court this winter, Brown will better able to face the off-court challenges she will face after graduation.

“Whether you are on the court or not on the court, you always have something to contribute to the team,” said Brown.

“It wasn’t easy but you take your role as a leader off the court and that’s just as important as being on the floor. For me it has been a really big part of personal growth, especially as I get ready to move on. There is an understanding that there is life after basketball but that I can apply the lessons that it teaches.”

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