June 12, 2024 

Kalani Brown has security and is providing it for the Dallas Wings

Brown: 'A five actually has a role here'

Kalani Brown is currently the only player coming off the bench for the Dallas Wings who has experience playing in the WNBA. The 6’7 center, selected seventh in the 2019 draft, was fresh off of a championship with the Baylor Bears. The expectations were high for Brown. But her early WNBA career did not deliver as expected — her first four years in the league, she played for three different teams: the LA Sparks, the Atlanta Dream, and the Dallas Wings.

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But Brown never stopped believing in herself. While out of the league, she spent time overseas showcasing what she was capable of when healthy. In 2023, Dallas signed her to a hardship contract due to the team suffering multiple injuries. The former Baylor standout took full advantage of the opportunity and drew eyes from many across the league. Dallas did not want to let her go and signed her to a three-year, protected deal that can keep her in Dallas through the 2026 season.

“Going overseas and battling with a chip on my shoulder, waiting for my moment, waiting for a chance and they (Dallas) gave me that,” Brown told The Next of her mindset through the difficult years.

Last season she played in 32 games and averaged a career-high 16 minutes per game. She averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. But Brown’s contribution to Dallas went beyond the stat sheet.

She was a reserve that came in to relieve starting center Teaira McCowan. When she entered the game, the Wings did not have to worry about other teams taking advantage of McCowan’s time off of the floor because of her ability to score and rebound. She was part of a one-two punch that made things difficult for every team inside the paint.

When she signed the contract with Dallas, she looked forward to not having to learn a new playbook. Rather, she could build on the team the Wings already had. Brown told The Next she is grateful to be able to improve without anxiety.

“I’m not on my back anymore, looking over my shoulder and now I can improve,” Brown said. “I have somebody that actually believes in me, this organization believes in me, so I am just grateful.”

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Dallas Wings center Kalani Brown (21) listens to Dallas Wings assistant coach Courtney Paris before a WNBA game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

Navigating through a tough season

Dallas has had to play with as little as eight players during this first month of the season. The loss of Satou Sabally, Natasha Howard and Jaylen Brown have proven difficult navigate through. They are now tenth in the standings with a 3-7 record.

Head coach Latricia Trammell said having an experienced player like Brown coming off of the bench has been important to the team. Their situation has allowed players like Stephanie Soares and Jacy Sheldon to play invaluable minutes.

“I mean, it’s been big obviously. Prior to coming in, Stephanie, Jacy, anyone that we have on our bench has been getting invaluable minutes. They’re probably getting too many minutes, but it is under our certain situation,” Trammell said.

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Brown, meanwhile, has been working to improve her skillset.

“I’ve always had footwork, but being versatile,” Brown explained. “What happens when they catch me on the block or in the high post, can I still dominate and make a move? Because the game is evolving. It’s going a little faster, I’m trying to evolve with it.”

The team’s leading scoring, Arike Ogunbowale, described Brown as being a player that is ready for anything.

“Obviously, she’s a vet as well,” Ogunbowale said. “She knows she knows the game. She’s played a lot of roles in her career, you know, from being a rookie to start in for a little bit, being first person off of the bench. It’s good to have her and just as a teammate. She’s always supportive no matter what, win or lose, whether she’s playing a lot or not. She’s a great teammate so I am glad she is on our team.”

The league’s game has turned into what some might call positionless basketball. One of the things that Brown said sets Dallas apart from the other teams she has been able to play for is the fact that they play through the five.

“A five actually has a role here so it feels good,” Brown said. “I came [into the league] not really having a five in front of me, so it was hard for me to transition because I didn’t have a vet to watch, but I had a lot to learn. Dallas actually plays through a five so it just feels more comfortable.”

The 2019 Kalani Brown didn’t know how rough the road ahead would be. So what does the 2024 Brown wish she could have told her rookie self?

“Just like I watched it before me. If you’re watching me, know that you can be dominant, know that you can be pretty, period.”

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Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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