Trinity Western Spartans' third-year guard Jessie Brown is already one of the best three-point shooters in conference history. (Scott Stewart, Trinity Western athletics)
Feature University Women's Basketball

TWU’s ‘Downtown’ Jessie Brown: A clinical approach to hoops and life

LANGLEY — Jessie Brown is a budding nurse, but she’s already got a doctorate in dialing from distance.

The proof?

On a Friday late last season, while her teammates on the Trinity Western Spartans basketball team were already in Lethbridge for that night’s Canada West conference clash against the host Pronghorns, Brown was back home in the Langley area at a local hospital, completing a day’s worth of those gruelling on-the-job classes known in the nursing world as clinicals.

“They ended at 2 p.m., I got to the airport, I flew to Lethbridge and then I got to the game in time for the national anthem,” Brown laughs. “I was all worried because you’re tired on the plane and it’s an hour’s drive to the game once you land. But I think I had a good game.”

Not bad. She did OK.

Twenty-four minutes off the bench. Seven-of-16 from the field. Five three-pointers made. A game-high 19 points in an 86-63 win.

From attending clinicals to putting on a shooting clinic, it’s what Brown can do for you if she’s on your team.

And this season, as a third-year shooting guard with the Spartans, the former high school star from nearby Brookswood Secondary has been one of the linchpins that has carried Trinity Western to its loftiest heights ever.

Despite its two-game sweep at the hands of the UBC Thunderbirds on the final weekend of the Canada West regular season, the Spartans still finished with a program-best 12 wins (12-8) and open the conference playoffs Thursday (7:30 p.m.) at the Langley Events Centre against the Brandon Bobcats in the first game of a best-of-three series.

What has Brown brought to the party?

In just under 28 minutes-per-game this season, she led Canada West in both three-pointers made with 61 (61-of-145) and treys-per-game at 3.0. Despite her voluminous attempts, she shot it at a crisp-and-clean 42,1 per cent, third best in the conference, and her 15.1 points-per-game were 13th best in the loop.

Of course the most curious part of all those numbers is the fact that she has two more seasons of eligibility remaining.

Already, Brown has her name amongst the very best long-range shooters in conference history.

She’s tied for first for triples in a game with nine, her 61 treys this season were seventh-best ever and after just three seasons, her 171 total makes are good for 10th overall.

The latter is the big one.

With somewhere in the range of 40 conference games remaining in her U Sports career, Brown is 109 shy of passing Calgary’s Ashley Hill (2006-11) for the all-time conference career record.

Who knows? She might even reach 300 makes before it’s all said and done.

But Brown’s not thinking about it.

“I had zero clue about any of that stuff, which is a good thing because I shoot too much,” she says.

Trinity Western Spartans head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul led her team to a program-best 12 wins this regular season. (Scott Stewart, TWU athletics)

Yet as much as the humble Brown downplays her feats, it bears mentioning that she has continued to find success despite the attention thrown her way.

“With Jessie, it’s the one thing that everybody else knows that she can do, but she still does it right in your face,” begins TWU head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul, “but it’s because she has put in the time. It’s a skill that she doesn’t just expect to show up when she needs it.”

For Jean-Paul, who has patiently thickened the team’s broth of character and chemistry while battling through some very lean years, Brown’s arrival and subsequent rise to one of the nation’s premier shooters has been part of a perfect storm.

And that’s because while Brown has not only worked hard to broaden the scope of her attack, paying special attention to developing her drives to the basket and a pull-up jumper, Jean-Paul has brought in other equally important players like the team’s scoring leader Tessa Ratzlaff (16.7 ppg) and slashing threat Kayla Gordon (14.1 ppg).

All of it came together on Jan. 7 when the Spartans, on the road, claimed what is likely the biggest win in program history, a 71-68 victory against the nationally-ranked Winnipeg Wesmen, who at the time were 11-0 and who would go on to post a conference-best record of 18-2.

“Tessa didn’t play and we had lost to them the night before,” says Jean-Paul, “but we didn’t let anything hold us back. I’m not sure if was our turning point, but it was a catalyst, an affirmation of what this team has become.”

Jessie Brown (10) and the rest of the TWU Spartans huddle with head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. (Scott Stewart, TWU athletics)

And Brown has been a huge part of it.

Helping lead Brookswood to the B.C. high school Triple A title over her senior season of 2013-14 she is the highest-profile women’s basketball recruit in the school’s history.

Jean-Paul is proud to speak about Brown’s accomplishments as a shooter, yet she makes it clear that any study of her player’s best on-court attribute should not cast a shadow which might obscure the other parts of her growing game.

“Jessie has taken ownership of how she’s gotten here,” the coach says. “Getting to the next phase is never about being satisfied with your skill set. She is scoring off the dribble, attacking the rim and working on a midrange game.

“So it’s not like we’ve got some board in my office tracking all of the (three-point shooting) stuff,” smiles Jean-Paul. “We leave that to her dad (Brookswood head coach Neil Brown). But it’s been fun to watch. Jessie is in her third year and she’s already one of the best-ever in Canada West. She’s already in the same company of some very good players.”

Ever since high school, Jessie Brown has loved to shoot the basketball because she’s always loved helping her teams win.

What’s the best way to put?

Again, we lean on Jean-Paul: “Jessie is not a limelight shooter. She wants ball in her hands to win the game, but it’s about getting the job done. That is important. She has been so successful because she never gets caught up in the hype.”

Brown and her team have come a long ways since that 4-14 campaign her freshman year.

Now, working through her third straight semester of clinicals, and with the program’s return to the post-season coming Thursday, the fruits of her journey can be viewed with more tangible perspective.

“You don’t notice where you are until you look back at where you were,” she says.

For the Spartans and their budding nurse, it’s been all about care, every step of the way.

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