Cassandra Brown at the free throw line for the University of Portland Pilots.

Cassandra Brown at the free throw line for the University of Portland Pilots.

Brown ready to hoop, bar none

Now that she has a foot-long titanium bar out of her chest, Cassandra Brown can breathe easier and run with no discomfort.

Now that she has a foot-long titanium bar out of her chest, Cassandra Brown can breathe easier and run with no discomfort.

The 6-foot-2, 155-pound speedy guard affectionately known as CB, will enter her senior NCAA Division 1 basketball year with the University of Portland Pilots healthy and happy.

“It’s a relief to have the bar removed,” said the Fulton Maroon grad on a recent visit home. “My first year, it was really rough and by my second year, I’d forget about it, but it was definitely subconsciously in the back of my mind.”

The fun-loving Brown took a medical redshirt in the 2012-13 season to undergo surgery. She returned to the floor last year and went to town, joining teammate Jasmine Wooton of California as All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mentions in early March. It was the first conference recognition for Brown.

Brown was born with a depressed sternum so basically had a hole in her heart. It wasn’t life threatening, but she would get winded quickly. She chose to have the NES procedure done to repair the hole.

“It was a very, very long and painful recovery process. I’m a gym rat and before the surgery, I would be training and would get frustrated because I would get more winded than friends who weren’t working as hard. It was kind of a blessing because it made me push harder and go the extra mile. That’s where I got my strong work ethic.”

Brown was averaging 12.2 points a game and shooting a league-best 43.7 per cent from three-point range. She recorded three games of 20 points or more in conference play, including a 25-point outing on Dec. 30 against Saint Mary’s Gaels in  California. The award was chosen by the league’s 10 head coaches.

The Pilots went 14-12 overall and 7-8 in conference play last season. Brown led Portland with 14.1 points a game as a starter. She rang up a team-high 422 points while going 78-for-97 from the charity stripe. She has 863 career points and hopes to hit the 1,000 plateau next season.

“It was a great year for competition,” said Brown, 22. “We have a strong conference with three teams going to the NCAA (tournament). Every game is a dogfight. San Diego (Aztecs) was 15-0 and we snapped their win streak at home (72-51 on Jan. 3). That was the best memory of the season.”

As a sophmore in 2012, she turned heads by draining 32 points against the Santa Clara Broncos and registered her first career double-double with 28 points and a dozen rebounds in a 91-77 road victory over the Washington Huskies in mid November. Brown tied a program record with 15 treys at Alaska Airlines Arena.

On her first game back after a year off, assistant coach Sean Kelly said, on the Pilots’ website: “I was excited for her because the previous couple of minutes didn’t go so well. She was doubting herself and then she made the big three and you could tell the weight was lifted off her shoulders. CB has one of those weapons that will make everybody on the floor better. We’re pretty excited where the team can go because of her ability to shoot the three.”

A communication major with a minor in biology, Brown is taking summer school courses in Portland. She’s super stoked about her senior year.

“I’m so happy I have another year because I’m not ready to be an adult yet,” she chuckled. “I live in an apartment and we go to (NBA) Blazers games; it’s so much fun in Portland.”

Brown starred for Fulton coach Jim Inglis from Grade 8 through graduation.

“The level of competitiveness is so much better down there. You can’t take any possessions off.”

Brown loves that her parents – Robb and Bonnie – can make the 10-hour drive to watch her games. The purple and white Pilots play out of the 4,800-seat Chiles Centre. The university has 4,000 students.

Her post-school plans include playing pro in some place like Greece, Italy or Australia.