RALEIGH — In the hallway leading from the player’s locker room at Reynolds Coliseum, Lorenzo Brown emerged and apprehensively answered questions so quietly his words were barely audible.
He was a freshman then and much has changed since that initial interview in November 2010 – not only for Brown but also N.C. State.
His first coach, Sidney Lowe, and God brother, Ryan Harrow, departed, forcing Brown to change positions and add a role. He’s now point guard and leader. Albeit still a silent leader.
“Sometimes I’m just looking around like, ‘Should I say something?’” Brown said recently, before laughing. “But now I’m a lot older and I know what to do in different situations.”
Today, Harrow is rounding into form on a struggling Kentucky basketball team and Brown is regarded as the best point guard in the ACC and is the conference’s active leader with 482 career assists.
In State’s loss Tuesday at Wake Forest, Brown became the 48th Wolfpack player to score 1,000 career points, but Brown said he had doubts about his skill set as a shooting guard as a freshman.
“It was definitely a blessing in disguise because nobody knew I could play point guard,” Brown said about Harrow leaving. “But if Ryan would have stayed, I would still be a shooting guard. Playing the point is my natural game anyway. People thought of me as a shooting guard, but I really can’t shoot.”
He certainly struggled early this season. The preseason All-ACC first team pick was shooting a meager 32.4 percent from the field and had an average of 4.25 turnovers per game in the first four games – all coming to a head against Oklahoma State in the team’s first loss of the season.
“You can’t base a player’s game on his first couple of games,” Brown said. “There were a lot of people hootin’ and hollerin’ about how I wasn’t playing well, but I never let what people say get to me.”
Since that game against the Cowboys, Brown has become a much more consistent force for the Pack, posting three of his four double-doubles against ACC competition.
As he has gone, the Pack have followed. Brown demonstrated his leadership skills when he challenged the Pack to play better after their ACC opening victory over Boston College.
"I think we had our heads up our butts because we were top 10 in the nation, but we got a couple of eye-openers,” Brown said. “I think we needed it. I think every team needs a beat down, a couple of beat downs, to get it going at the beginning.”
State coach Mark Gottfried noted the improvement of his point guard is due to relaxed play of late.
“What you want is for your players to improve throughout the year,” Gottfried said. “I think he has just gotten better. I thought early he pressed a lot and tried to do too much. I think he has eliminated a lot of turnovers and is running our team very well and has made big shots at big times.”
Brown didn’t shoot well in the Pack’s upset of No. 1 Duke, but his 13 assists tied a career-high and gained an admirer.
“Brown’s as good as there is in the country in transition,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s just a superb guard. He’s terrific.”
Following that game, the Wolfpack has dropped two of three entering Saturday’s showdown against North Carolina.
“It’s very important to me to get this one,” Brown said. “It’s like when you’re young and there’s a guy that you fight with every day and you never win. I’ve been here for three years and I’ve never beaten UNC. We’ve got to come out with the same intensity as the Duke game and get this one.”
As for whether or not this game still means as much with UNC experiencing a down year, Brown said, “Oh, this definitely still means a lot. They are still a tournament team and you can’t sleep on them.”
If the Pack is going to get back on track against the Tar Heels on Saturday, it will need a strong performance from its silent leader.