March 17, 2023 

Camryn Brown is the glue that holds UCLA together

The senior wing does all the little things that help lead to wins

The morning before UCLA was set to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, Bruins head coach Cori Close sent senior forward Camryn Brown a note.

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“I just said you are our quarterback out there when you’re in between the lines,” Close said. “You talk, you think ahead, you anticipate, great basketball IQ, and I just kept saying to lead us, talk to us, make those plays.”

Every team that has major postseason aspirations needs a player or two that’s willing to ‘make those plays.’ A player that is more than willing to do the dirty work and blend in around the team’s stars. A player who might not get major recognition, but the rest of the team most definitely understands that player’s importance on the court. Camryn Brown is that player for the Bruins.

With projected first-round WNBA draft pick Charisma Osborne leading the way along with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for 2022 that included the Gatorade National Player of the Year in Kiki Rice, UCLA had no shortage of star power coming into the season. But it’s difficult to find a player on the roster who impacts the game more than Brown.

“Her out-of-area rebounds, her ability to set — we call them assist screens — that lead to open shots for a teammate, she’s a whatever it takes, she’s a glue player,” Close said, “She’s what makes you go from having talented individuals to a cohesive team that does something bigger together than they could do on their own. She deserves so much credit for what she brings to our team.”

Brown’s value to the team was on full display during the Bruins’ recent run to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, upsetting Arizona and Stanford in the process. In the Bruins’ win over Arizona State, Brown was matched up defensively with Sun Devils high-scoring guard Tyi Skinner. Against Arizona, Brown saw time guarding Wildcats’ versatile big Cate Reese. Against Stanford, she was matched up against whoever the team needed her to guard.

In today’s game, it’s not always common to see a player approach the defensive end of the floor the way Brown does. She’s probably the most versatile defender on the Bruins roster. She has the length to make things difficult for guards on the perimeter and she has the strength to be able to body up bigger players in the paint. Brown takes pride in this part of her game.

“It’s just a mentality for me that I just want to do my job. I take real pride in that people aren’t just going to score on me. I know I can help the team out a lot in that aspect no matter what it is,” Brown told The Next. “If I have to bang in the post, I’ll bang in the post. If I have to sit down and guard a guard, do that. Just using my IQ and my length, knowing that I’m not the fastest one guarding a guard, but I have the length to do that. Use my speed when I do have to bang. Using my IQ to know what’s the best way to approach the defensive possessions.”

It’s Brown’s work on the defensive end and on the glass where her true value shines. In fact, Brown can go an entire game without scoring a single point, but her impact will be felt, especially by her opponents. Brown has not scored in double-figures at all this season. Her highest points per game average over the course of four seasons at UCLA is the 3.0 she averaged this season.

“At the end of the day, I want to win. I look at every game and I play every game thinking about what is it that’s going to help the team for us to win and what is that going to take for me?” Brown said. “Whether that be rebounding, whether that be guarding and defending, whether that be setting screens … just looking what they need from me, listening to my point guards, listening to the people around me, and just listening to what do they need from me and just going out there and executing that.”

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It’s not just her on-court play that makes Brown such an important player for the Bruins. As one of the longest-tenured players on the roster and a true four-year senior, Brown has become the team’s leader, their heart and soul. During timeouts and dead balls, she can be seen pulling some of UCLA’s young freshmen aside and giving them pointers here and there. The team rallies behind her, they respect her and they listen to her.

In this current college basketball landscape with more and more players hitting the transfer portal each season, Brown is something of a rarity, a player who has stayed for her entire four years at one program. She rebounded from a torn ACL during the 2020-21 season and has evolved into the leader this young team has needed. When she first arrived on campus she took a quiet, lead-by-example type of approach with a no-nonsense attitude and it rubbed off on her teammates.

“I think I came into college with my head down to just do my job and help my team and I think that earned me a lot of respect with my teammates, the teammates that have just come in and the teammates that I’ve been playing with for a while,” Brown said. “I think as I’ve grown up in this program my vocal leadership has also just matched the thought of me just keeping my head down and doing my job. I’ve been able to add a vocal leadership on top of that and just help encourage everyone else to just do their job. When all of us individually do our jobs together, we play super well as a team. I’ve combined vocal leadership along with just put your head down and do the hard work and I think I’ve been able to earn the respect of all my teammates through that.”

The end of Brown’s college career coincides with UCLA preparing to host the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the second should they advance past Sacramento State. For UCLA to have a shot at making a deep tournament run, Brown will be at the front and center of what they do on the court.

It’s been a long journey for Brown, one that hasn’t always been easy. But as she reflected on everything that has transpired, she couldn’t help but feel elated at how everything has ended up.

“It’s been a rocky road with a great ending, a lot of light at the end of the tunnel I would call it. This has been I think my first complete year of college basketball, complete year where I haven’t been significantly injured, a year I’ve actually gotten to play with joy,” Brown said. “I’ve finally been able to put a smile on my face while playing basketball. I would say it’s a complete journey that I’ve really appreciated.”

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

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