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Pitt freshman swingman Brown slowly finds his groove

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007

Pitt swingman Gilbert Brown woke up Sunday morning with a lower scoring average than freshman walk-on Tim Frye.

And it wasn't a bad dream.

But all that changed in less than four minutes for Brown, the athletic 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman expected to emerge as a top threat for the Panthers.

"I came through and made a couple of shots," Brown said. "I did what I had to do to help the team."

Brown, who struggled in the opening two games, will look to take another step forward when No. 19 Pitt (3-0) plays host to Mississippi Valley State (0-1) on Thursday at Petersen Events Center in the final game of the Hispanic College Fund Challenge.

Brown hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 3:44 span of the second half in Sunday's 69-58 victory over Saint Louis. The buckets came shortly after he replaced senior Mike Cook on the floor.

"It felt great," Brown said. "It boosts my confidence a little bit. I'm already confident in myself."

It was an early-season highlight for Brown, who through two games was averaging 2.5 points and shooting 1 for 7 from 3-point range. Frye had a higher scoring average (3.0), and redshirt freshman Austin Wallace, another player who rarely sees the floor, had the same number of offensive rebounds (two) as Brown.

Brown was 1 of 6 from the field in the opener against Houston Baptist and 1 for 4 against North Carolina A&T.

"He's improved," coach Jamie Dixon said, "but he's a work in progress."

Brown is playing with a partially torn right labrum in his right shoulder sustained in the final exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.). Brown said he will play through the injury; Carl Krauser once played for a season with partially torn labrums in both shoulders.

"My shoulder is fine," Brown said. "I have no discomfort at all."

Even with his timely outside shooting on Sunday, Brown is averaging 3.7 points per game - eighth on the team -- and owns the Panthers' worst shooting percentage (30.8).

Brown is one of the Big East's best athletes, from his between-the-legs dunk posted on to acrobatic, jaw-dropping moves this summer in the local pro-am league.

But this season, nine of his 13 shots have been from behind the arc.

"I'm just trying to do what I can for the team to win," Brown said. "I just try to take what's given to me."

Dixon would prefer to see the former South Kent Prep (Conn.) star attack the basket. Brown's style of play is well-suited for Pitt's up-tempo game this season. He is an excellent ball-handler and is the only regular on the team without a turnover.

Brown played some point guard at Tuesday's practice. But on a team with a loaded backcourt, Brown's minutes will come backing up Cook at small forward. At that position comes the mandate to rebound.

"For a kid as athletic as him, he needs to be getting offensive rebounds and putbacks and drives to the baskets as well," Dixon said. "He's got to be a better rebounder and that's something we've made very clear to him. You don't play if you don't rebound."

Brown, who played just 13 minutes last season before redshirting, said he is getting the message.

"Everything is going good, just how I expected," he said. "Just see how it goes from here on out, the rest of the season."

Note: The Pitt men's basketball team moved up to No. 19 in both polls, jumping three spots in The Associated Press poll and one spot in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. Three Big East teams - No. 5 Georgetown, No. 6 Louisville and No. 10 Marquette - are ranked in the Top 10 in the AP poll. Villanova is No. 24.

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