Gabe Brown is life of the Sparty party in this Big Dance
East Lansing — Michigan State freshman forward Gabe Brown has had a relatively quiet season.
That changed last week — albeit for a day — when Brown made waves across social media for two reasons: His hype man celebration that spread like wildfire and his breakout performance in the NCAA Tournament.
First, there’s the GIF that made the rounds on Twitter when cameras caught Brown on the sideline screaming and swinging his arms back and forth in a flexing motion late in Michigan State’s Sweet 16 win over LSU.
Also captured in the brief clip is freshman guard Foster Loyer smiling and junior center Nick Ward laughing on the bench in the background at Brown’s antics, with assistant coach Dane Fife merely looking over completely unfazed.
"That's just my personality,” Brown said with a grin after practice on Tuesday. “I was just overly hype that Quaido (Matt McQuaid) got that and-1 and it went all over the world. I couldn't believe it.
“People were sending it to me. I got a hundred text messages about it.”
It’s not the first time Brown has had his phone flooded with GIFs of himself. All season long he’s garnered attention for his bench celebrations and postgame dances, primarily for his “go crazy, go stupid” move — the one where he holds his arms straight and shakes his head all around.
Brown said the move is reserved for when “somebody is balling out there or there’s a hype moment.” Freshman forward Marcus Bingham Jr. added it has become the go-to celebration he and Brown have turned to after every win since Michigan State beat Purdue at home on Jan. 8.
Several other Spartans have gotten in on the act from time to time, including coach Tom Izzo. After Michigan State beat Duke to advance to this weekend’s Final Four, Brown tried to teach Izzo a new dance because “he's a little stiff and I'm trying to get him right.”
“He's definitely gotten better,” junior guard Cassius Winston said of Izzo's celebratory dances. “I credit that to Gabe and Marky giving him a couple moves to help him out a little bit. But he's gotten better as the season's gone on.”
It’s just part of what Brown has done to help keep the mood light, especially during a season where things could’ve turned dark with injuries ravaging the roster and a season where he has received sporadic playing time.
Brown has seen 21 minutes in back-to-back games sandwiched around four- and five-minute appearances and several outings where he didn’t even play. It's been an up-and-down ride that has led to him averaging 2.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 7.7 minutes over 31 games.
"I know it's a process and you've got to trust the process,” Brown said. “I know Coach Izzo wants to have the best for me and he's looking out for me 100 percent of the way. I'm just trusting him, trusting myself, trusting my teammates.”
Like most freshmen, it’s been an adjustment for Brown, who has gone from being the star at Belleville High to just another guy scrapping for minutes and having to patiently wait for his number to be called in college.
“It's a difficult thing, but when you've got your brothers behind you and the coaches behind you and your family behind you, you can get through it,” Brown said.
“Everybody is always there for me. I lean on everybody for help because they know it's a struggle for me because they know how used I am to playing out there. They always help me up at my lowest points."
And after grinding morning, noon and night all season, Brown's high point finally came when he scored 15 points and made four 3-pointers — marks that topped his totals over the previous two months — in 16 minutes off the bench against LSU.
“I proved to myself that I can go out there and be confident in my shot each and every time,” Brown said. “To hit them shots and have my teammates cheering for me is probably one of the greatest moments.”
Since then, Brown has quietly moved back to the bench, where he's busting out his sideline dances and hyping up his teammates.
And waiting for his shot to make some noise again.
“I worked day in and day out to get here, so that's what I'm going to continue to keep on doing because I feel that's the right way to do it,” Brown said. “My time will come soon."
At U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
►Virginia (33-3) vs. Auburn (30-9), 6:09 p.m. (CBS)
►Michigan State (32-6) vs. Texas Tech (30-6), 8:49 p.m. (CBS)
►Championship, 9 p.m. (CBS)