Detroit — Shareta Brown can handle being a target on the basketball court.
Wayne State's 6-foot-1 senior forward puts up video game-like numbers and she understands why opponents do everything they can to try to get her off her game.
What bothered Brown was being targeted off the floor. Northern Michigan coach Troy Mattson was suspended four games by his university when he accused Wayne State of cheating to get Brown to transfer from the University of Detroit two years ago. He also said she is the best player in the country when she tries, but then questioned her effort.
Those sentiments are felt around the league and it was why Brown was not named preseason player of the year even though she is easily the conference's best player.
Hurt turned into anger for Brown, who is the leader of the Warriors (14-2, 10-2 in the GLIAC and ranked fifth in the USA Today Coaches poll). The Warriors recently had a 10-game winning streak snapped at Ashland. The loss showed the importance of Brown, who fouled out after playing just 25 minutes. She finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
WSU hopes to rebound. Following Thursday night's game at Malone, the Warriors play six of seven at home, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday against Walsh.
"Every coach in our league knows that they cheated to get her there and we will not vote for her," Mattson said.
The accusation of cheating has its roots in the fact that her former AAU coach, Darrin McAllister, is also an assistant coach on the Wayne State staff. Brown's mother struggled with personal issues early in Shareta's life and McAllister and Michelle Lavita-Stephens became Brown's legal guardians after her sophomore season at Pontiac High School.
She moved in with the family and played her final two seasons at Grand Blanc.
McAllister and Lavita-Stephens are also the parents of Destiny Lavita-Stephens. She and Brown consider themselves to be sisters and they both went to Detroit out of high school, where Brown became an instant star. She became the second Titan to average 20 points and was on pace to become Detroit's all-time leading scorer. However, she says she did not like the way coach Autumn Rademacher talked to players and that both girls wanted to leave.
Brown says about 25 Division I schools contacted her after she left but Detroit blocked her from playing for any Horizon League team, Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and South Florida. She would have to sit out a year if she attended any of those but she wanted to play right away. After a brief flirtation with Oakland University she chose to join her "sister" at Wayne State, a Division II school where she was allowed to play immediately.
Rademacher said the school does not allow her to comment on former athletes.
'Motivated to never give up'
Brown said at first she was stunned and hurt. But after athletic director Rob Fournier addressed the team, she became more engaged and enraged. Brown has been named the GLIAC South Division's best player for five straight weeks.
"It motivated me to go and play hard and never give up," she said. "Even when I am dead tired, I push myself and never give up."
Brown is in the running for Division II national player of the year. She ranks first in rebounds per game (15.4), offensive rebounds per game (6.0) and field goal percentage (64.7 percent), and is third in double-doubles (14) and fifth in points per game (22.8).
The last two seasons the Warriors advanced to the Sweet 16 and players are hoping to advance further.
A motivated Brown is the key. Head coach Carrie Lohr believes when Brown is stimulated and talkative, she and her team are nearly unstoppable.
"I would say the one thing we need out of Shareta is consistent leadership," Lohr said. "She has that ability. When she leads, they will follow her to a drinking fountain. Maybe when she is down on herself or outside things are bothering her, she does not lash out. She sort of becomes small. You don't hear her or feel her energy. So she really has the capability to lead this team to unchartered territory."
It was difficult for Brown to lead after the Mattson comments. She doubted herself and withdrew. It was a tough time for a normally outgoing person who makes teammates laughs and shows bouts of competitiveness.
"I definitely think it hurt her initially," Lohr said. "It hurt her feelings. On the flip side it was an eye opener. If you are speaking on behalf of the league, then these coaches don't really respect me and I have to do really well. It really made her mad."
Everything's a challenge
Even without the incident Brown seeks challenges. After learning that students who record a 3.5 grade-point average or higher are hosted during a luncheon, she went out and recorded a 3.9 GPA last semester and got invited to the lunch. Lohr saw Brown in a dead sprint in the halls of Matthaei Center because she did not want a teammate to beat her to practice.
Everything seems to motivate Brown these days. Teams double-team her to force her to kick the ball out to open teammates like Lavita-Stephens (10.5 points, 39.4 percent on 3-pointers) and Jackie Jones (6.7 points).
"My guards are hitting shots and that opens things up for me," Brown said. "When they drive the lane, they get the ball to me. Obviously for me to score they have to do something good. If they are shooting well, then they cannot double-team me. Everybody on the team plays a big role in my success."
Now there are team challenges, which include a GLIAC regular-season and tournament title and a national championship.
"We got a chip on our shoulders," Brown said. "The Northern thing really motivated us. That makes us want to go out and prove everybody wrong and make everybody look bad. That has been our mentality. Our main focus is to get better, stay together and prove people wrong."