Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications
Women's Basketball

Huskers. Together - Whitney Brown

By Jeff Griesch
Nebraska Athletic Communications

Whitney Brown is chasing her dream to play basketball at Nebraska. The 5-8 freshman from Grand Island grew up imagining herself as a Husker while following her older brothers and sisters from gym to gym to watch their games.

"It has always been my dream since I was a little kid to be a Husker, so when I was given the opportunity it was my dream come true," Brown said. "It will be an honor to represent my hometown with 'Huskers' written across my chest."

Brown, a two-time Super-State and All-Nebraska guard, received her opportunity from Nebraska Coach Amy Williams with an offer to be a preferred walk-on for the Huskers following Brown's junior season at Grand Island Northwest High School when she led the Vikings to the 2019 Class B State title.

"Whit is excited for the opportunity to represent her home state and wear the Nebraska uniform.  She understands what that means and will take full advantage of the opportunity each day," Williams said. "She has a great work ethic and has a great understanding of what it takes to win. She has a selfless commitment to team and will be a great addition to our efforts toward unity."

Brown capped her high school career by averaging 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals as a senior to carry Grand Island Northwest back to the state semifinals at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

With approximately three months separating her final high school game and her arrival on campus in early June to begin voluntary workouts as a Husker, Brown couldn't wait to continue her next step in pursuing her dream.

"Being able to be back at Pinnacle Bank Arena and having the opportunity to call it my home court is surreal. It's truly a blessing and I can't wait to get on the court for the first day of practice and take every bit of it in," Brown said. "I couldn't be more excited to play in front of some of my hometown fans. To be able to play so close to home is something I will really cherish these next four years."

The lone Nebraska native in the Huskers' seven-player class of newcomers, Brown joins redshirt junior Taylor Kissinger as the two Nebraskans on NU's 2020-21 roster. Brown, who grew up approximately an hour away from Kissinger's home in Minden, shares a love for the long-range shot with her fellow Central Nebraskan.

"My greatest strengths as a player are my three-point range, my ball-handling skills, and my ability to lead," Brown said. "I've always worked on being able to nail it from deep and being consistent with it. Every day I put the work in the gym to increase my accuracy and become the greatest three-point threat I can be."

Brown's love for the game started at home. The daughter of Mick and Lori Brown, Whitney is the youngest of six children. She grew up in the gym watching her family members play, including her three brothers, Bobby, Brock and Brook, and her sister, McKenzie, who was a star at Nebraska-Kearney (2015-18). McKenzie started 109 games for the Lopers and finished 12th in school history with 1,350 points, while setting the UNK career record with 249 three-pointers. McKenzie was also the 2014 Omaha World-Herald Girls Athlete of the Year after leading Grand Island Northwest to a pair of state basketball titles.

"I definitely learned a lot from my sister in general. She is my biggest supporter, the best role model and the best overall sister a girl could ask for," Brown said. "Her college experience helped me know what to look for in a college, a team and academics. She still helps me work out at home. We go on runs together. I trust my sister with my life, and she has been my biggest influencer in sports and all my decisions."

Whitney fondly remembers putting her time to good use at McKenzie's games.

"At my sister's games, I use to sit on the bench and dribble or run out on the court in between timeouts and halftime and take two balls out there to work on my moves," Brown said. "It always just came naturally to me."

Although she was the youngest of six children, Whitney displayed leadership skills at a young age.

"Something else that came natural was leadership. I knew from the start of my athletic career that in order to become the best I could be and make my team the best we could be, I would have to step up and lead with my voice and actions," Brown said. "On every team I've been on, I've tried my best to step into the leadership role and lead my team to success."

While the basketball and leadership skills came naturally, the competitive fire came at home.

"We were always very, very, very competitive," Brown said. "Being the youngest, I got picked on and pushed around, but it was the best thing for me because it made me stronger. My siblings are a huge reason why I'm where I'm at today. I was basically at every game my siblings ever played, even some of their practices I went to and worked out on the sidelines. They taught me every move I know. They taught me grit, hard work, struggle and resilience. Every human is faced with their fair share of pain and struggle in their lifetime. It's what you choose to do about it that makes you the person you are today. My siblings are the reason why I can push past pain and struggle. They taught me to be stronger than I could ever imagine physically and mentally. They taught me how to have fun but still be the best I can be."

Brown also displayed her athletic skills, competitive nature and leadership abilities in other areas at Grand Island Northwest. Along with being a four-time varsity letterwinner in basketball, she also earned four letters while helping the Viking volleyball team to three Class B state tournament appearances. She was also a two-time state qualifier in the 3,200-meter run on the track. An academic all-state selection in both basketball and volleyball, Brown was also the president of the student council and the National Honor Society.

"Being a multi-sport athlete was awesome in every way," Brown said. "It was so nice for a change in seasons and pace every so often. It was even better to have different teammates and coaches and make all kinds of different bonds and relationships."

Growing up the youngest member in a competitive basketball family gave Brown a similar background to fellow Husker freshman Annika Stewart. Brown and Stewart discovered plenty of connections in their first days as roommates on campus in June, which has made the transition to life on campus easier for both of them.

"Anni and I got along right off the bat, and having the same class as her and going to workouts with her in the morning has been great," Brown said. "We're together every second of every day and it's been great to make a new life-long friend."

Brown and Stewart expect those connections to grow throughout the season.

"At first, I was definitely nervous to room with somebody I had never met before, but I am so glad I met her. We have so much in common, but we are very different too, which makes it even better because we make each other try new things and laugh all the time," Brown said. "We both love shopping, eating lots and lots of food, and watching any and every Netflix show. "We will be roommates throughout the whole year along with Ruby Porter coming hopefully mid-August."

Brown also expects the bond she is forming with Stewart and the rest of the Huskers is going to pay big dividends during the season.

"Team chemistry is going to play a huge role in our success this year, and I am not one bit worried about it because from the minute all of us girls stepped in the weight room together, joined Zoom calls, or texted in our group messages, you could sense the team chemistry," Brown said. "From my perspective, we've already got great teamwork, encouragement and a strong bond. We scrimmaged each other a couple times, had movie nights and team bonding activities and have been working out together the past three or four weeks. Week by week, we are getting closer together and stronger on the court."

While Brown feels great about her first month on campus and the direction the Huskers are headed together, she knows it is up to her to make herself the best she can be on and off the court.

"My goals are to get better, stronger, and faster in my four years of college and Nebraska was the one that could help me achieve that the best," Brown said. "I'm excited for my first season to be repping 'Huskers' across my chest, and I plan to work hard, keep my head down and help the team out in any way I can."

Brown's desire to improve was a motivating force for her to get on campus as early as possible this summer.

"I was really looking forward to getting to campus and being able to work out in all the facilities and use all the different gadgets that Nebraska has," Brown said. "In fact, I was counting down the days until I got to go in and lift. The advanced technology here is one of the reasons why Nebraska really sold me."

Brown is spending the summer focused closing the gap between where she was as a high school player and where she needs to be as an effective college guard in the Big Ten.

"I need to get quicker, and I need to get more physical," Brown said. "I have a great mid-range game off the court, but in games I sometimes forget to utilize it, and I think it could really take my game to the next level. Even the things I consider my strengths need work, and I will always be expecting to improve any and every aspect of my game. That's why I am excited to see what Nebraska can do for me. Each girl on this team is going to push me in different ways, and I can't wait to see the amount of improvement I make in just one year."