For as long as he can remember, Danny Brown has been filling out NCAA Tournament brackets each March.
Now, as a junior guard for the University of San Diego men's basketball team, the 2005 De Soto High graduate will play a part in determining how this year's bracket unfolds.
"It's kind of a surreal feeling, to be honest," Brown said. "When I was in junior high and high school, this was the time of the year when everyone was filling out their bracket, and the whole country was talking about the tournament. It's crazy to think that I'm a part of it."
Brown and San Diego (21-13) enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 13 seed in the South region and will face Connecticut on Friday in the first round in Tampa, Fla. USD earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance by winning the West Coast Conference postseason tournament, a feat that Brown said brought two mind-blowing experiences with it, considering the team the Toreros defeated.
"Gonzaga is a big game for everyone out here," he said. "That's just how it is. During my three years here, we had never beaten them, so to finally get them in the conference championship game on our home floor was incredible. At first it was just a big relief for our team to finally beat them, but then it sunk in that we were going to the NCAA Tournament."
During his time at De Soto High, Brown was a perennial all-Kaw Valley League selection who often led the Wildcats in scoring. In those days, he scored from all over the floor, driving to the rim, raining shots from three-point land and getting to the free-throw line. Today, Brown has become more of a three-point specialist. While averaging nearly 10 minutes a game off the bench for USD, he has connected on 18 of 50 three-point shots, good for 36 percent. Fifty-four of Brown's 74 points this season came from behind the three-point line.
"If a team zones us, they're going to throw me in there to try to loosen things up," Brown said. "Of course, you always want a larger role, but with the success we've had and the chemistry we have, you can't really argue with it."
That's especially true when considering what Brown's time at San Diego has given him. Outside of a chance to live out his dream of playing Div. I basketball - a dream he says takes total committment, mind and body, to achieve - Brown has enjoyed a bevy of personal highlights along the way.
This season alone he has played a part in a victory at Kentucky (81-72 on Dec. 29), scored in double figures against Gonzaga (11 points in 17 minutes on Feb. 18) and squared off against former Kansas University standout J.R. Giddens, who now plays at New Mexico. Brown played 17 minutes in the Toreros' 10-point loss to New Mexico. He left the court smiling about playing against a former Jayhawk, whom he remembered watching in high school.
"That was kind of a fun experience to match up against him," said Brown, who also has played with or against several current Jayhawks on the summer AAU circuit. Among them are: Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Conner Teahan. "(Giddens') game was a lot different than it was when I watched him play as a Jayhawk. Back then he was a great three-point shooter, but he's kind of become a one-dribble-and-pull-up kind of player. It was weird."
Brown expects a similar feeling when the Toreros line up to face UConn on Friday afternoon.
"UConn is one of the most storied programs in college basketball," Brown said. "Just the name UConn by itself brings a lot with it. But drawing them is great for us. It gives us a chance to show the rest of the country who we are.
"When it comes down to it, they have to put their five on the floor the same as we do."
While conceding his respect for the fourth-seeded Huskies, Brown said he liked the Toreros' chances of advancing to the second round. Not that he's picking them in his bracket.
"No brackets for me this year," he said. "I'll be there instead."