Keaton Miles. Pat Forsythe. Aaron Brown. Tommie McCune. Jabarie Hinds. Gary Browne.
Six high-school recruits (along with junior Dominique Rutledge who transferred from Western Texas College) who committed to the Mountaineers in the 2011 recruiting class.
One by one, some under worse circumstances than others, they all left. Miles to Arkansas, Forsythe to Akron, Brown to St. Joseph's, McCune to Oakland (later dismissed), Hinds to UMass.
Except for one.
Gary Browne - through all the turmoil, all the uncertainty - stuck it out. He was rewarded this season with his second NCAA tournament appearance and first Sweet 16 bid.
A model of consistency, Gary Browne played in at least 32 games in all four of his seasons in Morgantown. His 129 career games played ranks 8th in school history.
Early on, Browne began the season coming off the bench. According to Huggins, he wanted to be able to have either Staten or Browne on the court at all times to handle the ball. Once Tarik Phillip and Jevon Carter proved to be capable lead guards, Browne was inserted into the starting lineup.
Statistically, Browne's numbers weren't a ton different this season from the previous three. Browne never averaged more than 7 PPG or less than 5.6 PPG. The biggest difference was his improved three point shot, and his willingness to take it:
|Year||3PA per 40 minutes||3P%|
Although not the most prestigious of achievements, Browne tied Jaysean Paige for the highest three point percentage on the team. Per hoop-math.com, 47.9% of Browne's field goal attempts were from the three point line, a career high.
His overall shooting numbers were down slightly from his junior season, per sports reference:
Browne forced more turnovers this season than at any point in his career, a product of Press Virginia. His steal % (steals per 100 possessions) of 3.5 was a career high, up from 2.7 in his junior season.
It was clear that Browne took on more of a leadership role this season. He and Juwan Staten were the only seniors on the team, and everyone else looked to those two for guidance.
Before Devin Williams had his late season domination, Browne was probably the second best player on the team.
With Juwan Staten missing the game due to illness, Gary Browne stepped up huge in West Virginia's conference-opening win on the road at TCU. Browne completely took over the game in the final minutes, and finished with 16 points on 5-11 shooting and 6-9 from the line to lead the Mountaineers to the 78-67 victory.
The Baylor game in Waco seemed like an uphill climb when it was announced that Staten would be out with a sore knee. Things got even worse when this happened:
That injury kept Browne out for the remainder of the regular season and the conference tournament. He did not seem to be hampered by the injury when he returned for the NCAA tournament.
If he chooses, Gary Browne will be able to carve out a nice career playing international basketball. Regardless, he'll always be remembered in Morgantown as one of the few constants in an era of seemingly endless turnover. Browne grasped the importance of the Mountaineers to the state of West Virginia, and really showed appreciation for what the state and school had done for him. A class act.