PHOENIX — Outside of Kyle Kuric’s brain surgeries, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player that’s been through more in their brief professional basketball journey with the Phoenix Suns than Alec Brown.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old big man was the 50th overall selection by Phoenix in the 2014 NBA Draft, and his unique skill set was enough to garner serious attention from Suns fans despite being one of the last picks in the draft.
At 7 feet tall, Brown has a beautiful three-point stroke and shot 42 percent on 170 attempts in his last two seasons at Green-Bay Wisconsin while also blocking a school record 309 shots over the course of his college career.
Brown is in his third straight season on the summer league roster but has yet to make the Suns’ regular season team, an extreme rarity in the NBA, especially for a draft pick of the team.
“Feels good, I love coming back playing for these guys,” Brown said after a practice last week. “Obviously grateful that they are giving me another shot.”
Brown has faced tremendous amounts of adversity since being drafted by the team.
In the final game of 2014 summer league, he separated his shoulder and didn’t play for the then Suns D-League affiliate Bakersfield Jam until February after taking more time to let his shoulder heal.
Coming off his short stint in Bakersfield, Brown was back on the summer league team again in 2015.
The change this time, however, would be that Brown already had a contract agreement with Obradoiro CAB, a team in the ACB league in Spain, before summer league play.
Brown started only two games in Las Vegas and averaged just 10.6 minutes despite being a second-round pick of the organization a year prior.
He then went to Spain, where Brown said he enjoyed his time.
“Spain was amazing, it’s such a beautiful country,” Brown said.
There were still hurdles, though. He had an ankle injury that saw him miss time, and he played limited minutes. In his 16.3 minutes per game, Brown still shot the ball well from deep at 41.5 percent.
“I’ve had a couple of setbacks here and there, but I’m just going to keep fighting through and keep getting better and hopefully get my shot,” Brown said.
One would assume that shot was finally coming this trip to Las Vegas, but on draft night, the Suns selected two versatile bigs, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. The rookie duo, along with under contract center Alan Williams, made it difficult to see Brown earning a serious chunk of minutes.
As it turns out, it has. In three games, Brown has averaged only 3.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and eight minutes per game.
Brown did watch the draft, and while he said it’s tough, he’s looking forward to still trying to prove himself.
“It’s tough because you’re always fighting for a spot and when you see someone get drafted at your position, it makes it more of a challenge, but I like that challenge.”
Summer league head coach Nate Bjorkgren, who has spent three years coaching Brown, lit up when asked about the stretch big.
“He’s getting stronger, he’s smart, he leads, he’s been around so he knows the pace of practice and what’s gonna happen out of timeouts and the way that we expect to play,” Bjorkgren said.
Brown said he doesn’t know what’s next in his career and is going to wait and see what happens, but even when he’s faced with another uphill climb, he’s not backing down.
“It’s just more experience, you’re not getting better if you’re not getting challenged,” Brown said.