Browning shines at Game Time tryout

BY WILL MCDAVID | JUNE 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Before Sunday morning’s tryout for the Game Time League, a group of coaches, organizers, and participants gathered courtside for player introductions. One-by-one, each prospective team member briefly introduced herself, none yielding much more than a nod of acknowledgement or short welcome. These formalities went on without interruption until the final athlete stepped forward.

Before 22-year-old Ali Browning could utter a word, Game Time Director Randy Larson launched into a speech of commendation, praising the Regina High School alumna for her high skill level and impressive athletics career. When later asked about Browning, Larson iterated his deep admiration.

“I’m so proud of Ali because she had to play center at Regina, and then she worked so hard to develop her game as an outside player,” Larson said. “She’s a tremendous 20-foot shooter. She got to where she could be that great shooter and play the 3 and the 4.”

Though Larson was often quick to remind Game Time hopefuls that their performance at the tryout takes precedence over their “résumés,” even he had to acknowledge the accomplished Browning. After all, as an Iowa Newspaper Associate All-State first-team selection, a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee, and a scorer of more than 1,000 career points, she is one of the most decorated athletes in Regina history.

However, after her storied senior year at Regina, the Iowa City native’s career took an unfortunate turn. A series of debilitating knee injuries hampered the talented forward for the majority of her college career and ultimately led her to forgo her final year of eligibility.

“Her knees just gave out on her,” Larson said. “And she just lost her chance, at what I thought was going to be a really nice college career up in the Dakotas.”

Though nagging injuries made her a fixture on the bench during her time at North Dakota State, the Browning who attended Sunday’s tryouts displayed the diverse offensive repertoire that had terrorized high-school defenses four years earlier.

“She’s skilled for a big player, and she runs the floor really, really well,” said Clark Anderson, Browning’s assistant coach at Regina, and current Game Time coach. “She just has a knack for getting to the basket and finishing around the hoop. Her footwork in the post was phenomenal.”

While many players were impressive during the tryout, Browning was a revelation, showing touch on hook shots with either hand, as well as a jump shot with range out to 20 feet. When paired with her ability to consistently outmuscle and outrun defenders, her varied skills made the 22-year old forward virtually unable to be guarded in scrimmages. Absent was the fear of injury, any lingering doubt in her knees were clearly overshdowed by an insatiable desire to compete.

“I had three knee surgeries, so I miss the competitiveness,” Browning said. “Winning and losing. Feeling the competition feeling again. I want competition. I love playing against other people that are at the same level that I play at.”

Like Randy Larson’s pre-scrimmage praise, discussion of Browning before the tryout was dominated by talk of her past achievements. After the event, the conversation had clearly shifted to what she can do this summer.

“It’s fun to see that she still wants to play, and sometimes the very best summer-league players are those people that didn’t have the kind of college career that they should have had for one reason or another beyond their control,” Larson said, “So this is going to be a fun summer to watch what Ali can do. I think that people are going to be amazed at what a great player she is.”

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