YOUNGSTOWN - Brandi Brown has had her share of accolades over her storied Youngstown State University career.
Earlier this season against Akron, the 5-foot-11 women's basketball senior became the third Horizon League player to get 1,600 points and 1,000 rebounds. She got her 1,000th rebound in the Zips victory.
She has been instrumental in the team's 9-3 start, the best beginning for the Penguins since they went 8-5 to start the 1999-2000 season where YSU won the Mid-Continent Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
"Our first couple of years, we weren't very good as a team," YSU coach Bob Boldon said. "People thought she was a good player on a bad team. Now that we've had a little bit more success as a team, people are taking her individual success more seriously and starting to recognize how good she truly is."
Speaking of that 1999-2000 season, YSU went 12-4 in the Mid-Con. The Penguins have one more non-conference game Friday at VCU before starting Horizon League play Jan. 12 at Valparaiso.
"It's nice to know some of the hard work we've been putting in for the last three years has been paying off," said Brown, who has played on teams that went 10-74 in her three previous seasons. "The biggest thing is not let the accomplishment we've gained so far get to our heads and making sure we play well in conference because that's what really matters in the end."
It's helped that Brown and other upperclassmen have helped YSU succeed.
"She's a good role model for our young kids," Boldon said. "I don't think we've had good leadership here in the past. I think she, Liz (Hornberger) and Heidi (Schlegal) have taken it upon themselves to provide leadership to new kids coming in. They have a higher level of expectations and I think she's done that - as good as anybody in this program has ever done it.
"She's set the bar high and not only allowed her success, but laid the groundwork of future success of our program."
Brown has averaged 19.8 points and 11.3 rebounds this season, something she wants to keep up.
"That's something I want to do and that's something I know will help the team," she said. "I just want to be the best leader I can for my teammates."
Brown has been more than a low-post player for the Penguins.
"She's converted from a low-post player to a very effective perimeter player," Boldon said. "All the while, she hasn't lost any of her low-post skills.
"Her versatility is a direct correlation of her work ethic and being open to new challenges."
Brown has taken challenges quite well.
"I like to play offense better because it's fun to score, but I've grown to know the importance of defense," she said. "We have to take pride in that and not let people score. It's fun taking charges, that's for sure. It really builds a lot of momentum and energy for our team. It's a defensive concept we try to get better at."
Brown has been a great ball handler as well.
"We've used her all over the floor," Boldon said. "We've used her in a couple of road games to bring the ball up the floor against pressure. We've certainly used her on the 3-point line. She's been very effective there. We used her as a pressure release quite often. We've thrown her the ball at almost every conceivable spot on the floor."
And one of YSU's top players may play well after her days as a Penguin.
"If she wants to play professional basketball, she's plenty good enough," Boldon said. "I don't know if she'll play here in the WNBA, but she'll be able to play overseas somewhere."