‘He never gives up on us:’ Brown leads Shockers with new confidence


Kaylee Stout / The Sunflower

Wichita State senior, Trey Wade guards his opponent during a game against Tulsa at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 13.

The Wichita State men’s basketball program looked to be in a dark place when it had six players transfer at the end of the spring 2020 semester and had their all-time winningest coach resign right before the start of a new season. But since Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown took over, WSU has been able to respond to the adversity with a new swagger.

Brown has quickly instilled confidence in the team, leading to an 8-3 start to the season and 4-1 in conference play. That newfound boldness was present in the Shockers’ dominant 72-53 victory over Tulsa. 

Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said that instilling confidence in the team has been a main focus early on.

“You know, they walk around with a swagger,” Brown said. “They believe that they can win games. When you can go on the road and you know, beat Ole Miss, beat South Florida, it just gives those guys confidence and it brings them together. You know a couple of those games we were down, they kept battling back and I’m just so proud of them.

Through 11 games, the Shockers are 8-3 and currently sit in second place in the conference standings. A year ago, WSU found themselves ranked in the Top-25 with a 10-1 record but faltered down the stretch, going 13-7 to close out the season. 

The Shockers have rebuilt the roster this season and the team has become much closer as a result.

“We also had energetic moments in the locker room too but this team is a lot more of a family,” sophomore guard Tyson Etienne said. “I think all of us are truly there for each other, want to see each other win on and off the court. It doesn’t just come down to if you’re scoring or not. I think everybody’s there for each other in all aspects of life.”

Wichita State senior, Alterique Gilbert celebrates the win during a game against Tulsa at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 13. (Kaylee Stout / The Sunflower)

Etienne said that even with players coming from different backgrounds and places, they have been able to quickly build a bond. 

“Everybody comes from different backgrounds and stuff and sometimes you don’t have that same family connection,” Etienne said. “So to be a part of a group, a part of a team for that to be the theme around, that’s a special thing. I’m grateful to be a part of it and I’m grateful for the group of guys that we have.”

This offseason, junior Morris Udeze was one of seven players to enter the transfer portal but ultimately decided to return to WSU. Udeze credited Brown’s impact in creating a new atmosphere within the program.

“He’s given us a whole new aura, a whole new swag to us that we don’t want to lose,” Udeze said. “There’s a whole new swag, different energy, come to practice ready to go, all of that. We’re just trying to ride for our coach.”

Another aspect of Brown’s coaching has been the positive reinforcement provided even during WSU’s struggles. 

Etienne said that has made an impact especially with the number of young players that are on this year’s roster. 

Wichita State sophomore, Tyson Etienne poses with senior, Trey Wade during a game against Tulsa at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 13. (Kaylee Stout / The Sunflower)

I think he’s done a great job of, you know, staying true to us and believing in us, even when stuff might not be going the best way during the game, he never gives up on us and he continues to give us positive reinforcement,” Etienne said. “I think that’s something that’s huge, especially that we got so many young guys and new guys, you know, we need to know that our coach is rocking with us. And he’s done a great job at that.

One of the areas that Brown has focused on providing energy which has started to translate into the games.

The number one thing we talk about in the locker room is just energy,” Brown said. “When you play with a lot of energy, it just makes things a lot easier for you on the basketball court. You tend to defend at a high level, you tend to rebound at a high level, and you just make shots because of your energy level.

As one of the seven newcomers on this year’s roster, graduate transfer Alterique Gilbert said that the energy in the locker room has been a key to this year’s early success.

The energy in the locker room is great,” Gilbert said. “Not just today or game days, it’s each and every day. For the most part, all the guys top it up on and off the court from what I know and coach Brown, he just does a great job of emphasizing those small details, you know rebounding and checking out, staying in the gap, you know playing together, sharing the ball. He just wants us to enjoy ourselves.