MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins spent much of West Virginia's preseason singing the praises of junior guard Gary Browne, specifically his shooting.
"Some guys think they're just going to magically become better shooters,'' Huggins said. "Not Gary. He's worked at it. He's in the gym early, he stays late and he's put in the time. He's probably our best outside shooter now.''
Well, maybe not the best, but if nothing else Browne certainly isn't far off the mark.
Sophomore guard Eron Harris has emerged as WVU's best 3-point threat and is among the Big 12 leaders in 3-pointers and 3-point percentage, shooting just under 50 percent. But Browne isn't far behind, shooting 47.8 percent out there, although on just over one-third as many attempts.
But overall, the 6-foot-1 guard from Puerto Rico remains one of West Virginia's most dependable situational scorers. Heading into Sunday's 1 p.m. home game with Purdue, Browne leads the seven Mountaineers who have logged at least 200 minutes of playing time in overall field goal percentage, shooting 53.8 percent.
Those numbers are certainly solid taken by themselves. However, put them into context and they are off the charts.
Here's the context: A year ago Browne was a 32.5-percent shooter overall and missed nearly 80 percent of his 3-pointers. His 3-point totals this year (11) match those of each of his first two seasons. He got to 11 as a freshman in 45 attempts and then in 54 tries as a sophomore. He's 11-for-23 one-third of the way through this season.
And the difference is that work he put in. But it's not because he worked and became a technically better shooter. It's because he worked and gained confidence by doing so.
"It's the reason I practice,'' Browne said. "The more you do something, the more confidence you have.''
It's not that Browne was ever a poor shooter, he says. In fact, quite the opposite. He plays during the summer for the Puerto Rican national team and one of the things he's expected to do there is score. For some reason, though, he couldn't do that last year at West Virginia and no amount of coaching was going to help him.
"Huggs helped me and the coach of the national team helped me,'' Browne said. "But at the same time, it's up to me.