If you are looking for world-class athletes at a Brown basketball game, you might want to look to the stands. There, you may find an unlikely duo cheering on the Bears: two-time NBA champion, Fab Five member, and current Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard, along with Masters and U.S. Open winner Jordan Spieth.
For these two superstars, it is family that ties them to Brown University. Howard’s son, Joshua, is a freshman for the Bears, and Spieth’s brother, Steven, is a senior captain.
Together, these 6’6 forwards provide much of the offensive firepower for their team, though they play different games.
A four-year starter, Spieth is having a prolific start to the year. He has the most total points, steals, and minutes played, and the second-most rebounds and assists in the Ivy League this season. Having dodged injuries, Spieth is pouring in 15.4 points and handing out 4.1 assists per contest.
The Dallas native said that the diversity of his game is his strong suit.
“I can shoot it,” he said. “I can get to the rim, I can dish, I can rebound. I try to do it all.”
And that’s what the Bears need. Brown graduated senior Cedric Kuakumensah last year, a dominant 6’9 forward who averaged 9.6 rebounds and 14 points per game in his senior season, and holds an Ivy League record for blocks in a career with 311.
Kuakumensah’s absence is one of the main reasons that Brown was ranked last in the Ivy League preseason media poll.
But Brown is defying expectations. Having won six of their last seven, the Bears hold the best overall record in the Ivy League at 7-5.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, but we don’t want to go back below .500,” head coach Mike Martin said.
While Spieth leads the way today, the future of the program likely rests in the hands of Howard. While he is a strong scorer who consistently shows his ability to beat defenders to the basket, Howard doesn’t stuff the stat sheet like Spieth does, at least not yet. His stats however, look much like his father’s did during his freshman year at Michigan. Howard averages 10.8 points per game, and is in the top five in total points, blocks, steals, and offensive rebounds in the Ivy League this year.
Spieth is a presence on the court. He is aggressive, fast, and physical. Howard on the other hand, is unassuming. Often quiet in post-game interviews, he is graceful on the hardwood. He shows no signs of physical exertion on his face as he out-works his opponents.
Spieth says that growing up with his brother helped harden his competitive edge. But Jordan, who made 23 million dollars in prize money in 2015 – a record sum – won’t step on the court with Steven anymore.
“Last time we played I think I was in eighth grade, and [Jordan] was a sophomore in high school,” Steven said. “And he beat me, so he won’t play me again.”
Despite their recent success, last Tuesday’s game against Providence was a harsh reality check for the Bears. Brown came in with a four-game winning streak, but fell 95-57 to a Friars team that holds its opponents to 59.4 points per game – ninth best in the country.
Brown bounced back over the weekend, besting each of its two opponents by 30-plus points.
Though Brown has a long way to go, all it needs to do is finish in the top four of the Ivy League for a shot at the automatic NCAA Tournament bid. That will be decided with a four-game conference tournament in March.
In order for Brown to get there, Spieth and Howard need to continue to perform at a high level. Spieth was named Ivy League Player of the Week last Monday, and Howard was named Rookie of the Week for his 18-point performance against Bryant.
Fixed to the legacies of their successful family members, both Spieth and Howard strive to make their own names. With their trajectory tied to the success of the Brown University basketball program, now is the time to start paying attention to the Bears. You just might see them down the road.