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October 21, 2013Follow @miller_zack
MADISON, Wis. - If you're walking around campus and run into a 6-foot-8, 237-pound freshman who happens to be singing at the top of his lungs with a huge smile on his face, take a moment and introduce yourself to Vitto Brown of Ohio. But if your paths don't cross that way, no worries: you'll be able to see Brown in a different kind of action when he takes the court as a promising power forward for Wisconsin's men's basketball squad.
Brown has come to Madison after a record breaking career at Bowling Green High School in Ohio where he grabbed more rebounds (806) and blocked more shots (336) than any player in that school's history. Brown also tallied 20 double-doubles in his senior year of high school. Naturally, he was heavily recruited, but his decision about where to attend college was anything but a dilemma.
"After I came to team camp the summer before my senior season, Wisconsin recruited me the hardest," Brown recalled. "They never missed one of my tournaments and I just didn't see that genuine love out of other schools as well. I knew that this was the place for me."
The transition from high school to college has a tendency to separate the men from boys, and Brown has no intentions of being paired with the latter.
"I'm definitely ready to step in and help this team win," Brown said. "My goal was to come in as ready as possible and with the help of [strength and conditioning coach] Erik Helland I've already gained 20 pounds of muscle. I feel like I'm physically ready to bang with guys on other Big Ten teams."
"I like rebounding," Brown said at Wisconsin media day. "I feel like I can get rebounds outside of my area and those that come right off the rim so I think that will help this team limit opponents' second chance opportunities and also give us second chance opportunities on the offensive end."
Brown said that his life so far on campus has been extremely busy between all of the schoolwork and the time dedicated to basketball, but that it's all worth it. For a guy who was a math tutor in high school and scored a 28 on his ACT, the schoolwork is fairly manageable. As for basketball, he said he's willing to give as much as he physically can to a school that gave him an opportunity that is reserved for a select few.
While Brown has yet to have the chance to show Wisconsin what he can do on the court, he has started to give everyone a taste of how talented he is away from the ball.
"I love to sing," Brown admitted. "If I wasn't a basketball player then I would be majoring in music but it takes too much time. I haven't had to sing for the guys on the team yet, but eventually I'm sure I will."
Okay, yes, Brown hasn't sung for his teammates just yet, but his pipes have been on full display for the team's booster club.
The team already has plans in the works to utilize Brown's vocal cords for their own benefit.
"At the end of the year we have that Buckingham talent show and we're thinking about entering our own freshmen group with Vitto being the lead singer of course," fellow freshman, and Brown's roommate, Nigel Hayes said. "We've been narrowing down some songs and we have a couple guys right now, Riley [Dearring] and Jordan [Hill], who seem to think they're the next Temptations so it'd be interesting to see how that goes."
Brown's seriousness with his singing is contrasted by his all-around joking nature and the fact that his teammates seem to believe that he is the funniest one on the team.
"Vitto is funny, very funny," junior guard Josh Gasser said. "Anytime Vitto talks or laughs, I laugh. I don't know what it is about him but he's got that persona and that character about him."
Hayes described Vitto's sense of humor as the type where, "we could sit in a room with a rope and laugh for hours about it."
Vitto Brown shot 53 percent from the field in high school, including 35 percent from three-point range, and was named the Division 2 AP Co-Player of the Year last season along with being named First Team All-State so there's no doubting that this 18-year-old can play. Until the Badgers take the court, however, they're going to have to wait for the results to come in on a freshman who they are hoping can help fill the frontcourt hole left by the graduation of Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans.
For now, Brown's presence on the Wisconsin men's basketball team appears to be one that players and fans alike will truly enjoy over the next few years.
"I've heard he could sing," Gasser said. "Maybe we'll have to have him do that for us after we win a Big Ten title this year."
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