They call Sandy Brown the Sand Man, but he is not sure why.
He recalls an assistant high school coach giving him the moniker because he feared a basketball standout named Sandy might be confused with a girl.
Jermal Baker, a teammate of past and present, says it is because Brown “slides through everything.”
Pausing, Brown considered Baker’s reasoning. “That’s true,” he finally said.
It had better be. Because at 6-5, 160 pounds, it is the only way he will make it through his first college season.
Brown is a freshman on the Cal State Northridge basketball team. His collegiate career is officially only 4 days old, but he already has learned a lesson in survival--when Todd Bowser, Alan Fraser and the like start mixing it up in the middle, get the heck out of Dodge.
Bowser, 6-8, is more than 100 pounds heavier than Brown. Fraser is 6-6, 225.
“Going in there is like walking into a dark cave,” Brown said, referring to the key. “I try and stay out, because I can’t win in there.”
Brown is doing quite nicely outside the painted area, however.
“He plays very smart for his age,” Coach Pete Cassidy said. “He knows his limitations--he’s not a banger--so he uses his quickness.”
Northridge’s first game, an exhibition against the University of British Columbia, is not until Nov. 4, but if the season started today, Cassidy said, Brown would play at guard or small forward.
“He’s picking things up quickly and I like his competitive instincts,” Cassidy said. “He’s a winner, I think.”
Brown’s basketball background substantiates the claim. He averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds a game for a Manual Arts High team that won the state championship last season.
Coach Reggie Morris of Manual Arts is credited with teaching Brown fundamentals that have helped ease his adjustment to college--both on and off the court.
“Coach Morris teaches you not only how to win but also how to go further in school and in basketball by stressing basic fundamentals,” Brown said.
Baker, Brown’s roommate, earned substantial playing time as a freshman last season. Baker also played for Morris.
“In college, a lot of the adjustment is just getting used to different surroundings,” Baker said. “For us the basketball part isn’t so bad because we were already fundamentally sound.”
Brown has grown more than an inch since signing with Northridge last spring. His game has grown even more in the 2 years since Baker last played with him.
“He’s come a long way,” Baker said. “I knew he’d be good, but he might be better than a lot of people ever imagined.”
Part of his development needs to take place in the training room, Cassidy said.
“He is, uh, rather lean isn’t he,” Cassidy said. “What he needs, I think, is a before-season, in-season and after-season weightlifting program.
“His folks say he eats like a horse but can’t put on weight. You see guys like that once in a while . . . and you envy them.”