College Basketball: Former Cav star Brown helped Shaw to national title
By Mike London
RALEIGH — Senior Shemieka Brown returned to classes at Shaw on Monday, but it wasn’t just another school day.
There were pats on the back, smiles and waves from people who had been strangers. National championships, like the one Brown and her teammates won in San Antonio on Friday, tend to draw attention.
“I felt famous,” Brown said with the same giggle she had when she starred at North Rowan. “It surprised me a little how many people came up and told me ‘Good job.’ People reacted more than I expected. It was nice.”
Brown was a fine athlete at North, a springy bundle of energy who ended a four-year varsity hoops career with 1,358 points, good for fourth on the program’s all-time list.
She was the Post’s 2007 basketball player of the year and athlete of the year.
A year-round performer, she won the triple jump in the Central Carolina Conference track meet. In tennis, a sport she tried for the first time as a seventh-grader, she qualified for regionals.
After graduation, Brown played two seasons at Wilkes Community College. It was there she began making the tough transition from scorer to defensive stopper.
In the summer of 2009, she signed with Shaw, a CIAA school in Raleigh. She joked that the school’s biggest selling point was its location near a McDonald’s.
Brown sat out the 2009-10 season, but she’s been a contributor to the powerhouse Bears the last two years.
Shaw reached the Division II national semifinals in 2011 before losing to eventual national champ Clayton State (Ga.) in Colorado. That strong run told the Bears they could take the next step.
“We felt going into this year we had a dream team,” Brown said. “We knew if we played a little harder we could do it.”
The highlight of the regular season for Brown was a 17-point, six-rebound outing at Livingstone in February. She shot 7-for-8 in New Trent Gym in that one.
“Had to show out a little bit for the people at home,” Brown said.
That Livingstone game was a turning point in Shaw’s charge. It was the initial win in a torrid, 15-game streak that closed the season.
Included in Shaw’s late run was payback against Johnson C. Smith (the last team to beat Shaw) in the CIAA tournament championship in Charlotte.
Brown played in 32 of 35 games and started 17. Her stats — 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds — weren’t gaudy, but her focus was on defense.
Brown’s most vital contribution during Shaw’s postseason run came in a 61-58 scrap against Pittsburg State (Ks.) in the Elite Eight. Coach Jacques Curtis told the media that Brown’s harassing defense late in the first half turned the tide.
“Shemieka changed the tempo a little bit and made somebody else bring the ball up the court because she was really getting after the young lady she was guarding,” Curtis said. “She changed the flow of the game right then and swung it in our way.”
Shaw rolled in its semifinal game with Rollins, but it was in serious trouble at halftime against second-ranked Ashland (Ohio) in Friday’s championship game. The Bears were down 11.
“Coach told us to keep our heads up, that it wasn’t over,” Brown said. “We knew we could beat ’em. We got the stops, made a run.”
Shaw (29-6) won 88-82 in overtime and took a banner back to Raleigh. Brown’s personal contribution was six minutes of intense defense.
“It was all a good experience, flying there, staying in downtown San Antonio, and then winning,” Brown said. “Not everyone gets to be national champions. We’ll get rings — and a lot more.”
Brown is on track to graduate in December. After that, it’ll be either grad school (she’s a talented singer) or joining the work force.
Whatever comes next, she’ll always have the memories — and the ring.
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