Ohio State freshman E.J. Liddell has wasted no time making fans out of those who have watched him in the Kingdom Summer League.
That includes Vitto Brown, the Wisconsin standout and Ohio native who has spent the last two years playing in the NBA’s G-League. Placed on Liddell’s team last Sunday for the first time, Brown helped team Be Greater roll to a blowout win while also growing acquainted with the new Buckeye.
He was impressed.
“First off, a lot of talent at a young age,” Brown said after the game. “I just found out that he was just entering college. He’s already ahead of a lot of guys right now at his position. It looks like he has a good work ethic. He can shoot, rebound and defend, so those are the most important things. He’s got a high motor, too.”
A Bowling Green native, Brown wasn’t recruited by Ohio State but found a home with the Badgers and eventually grew into a major contributor after mostly serving as a role player during his first two seasons. A three-star prospect out of high school, Brown said the adjustment from high school to Division I college basketball requires a high level of confidence in order to hit the ground running — even for a four-star talent like Liddell.
Playing in the summer league, which features local athletes who are either in college, have played in college or in many cases professionally, will help with that, he said.
“It takes confidence, and it’s good that he’s out here playing with pros and getting to experiment and try these different things because it’s all going to come in handy down the road,” Brown said. “He also has to realize that he’s not going to be the only one that is that good on the next level. He has to go on with a chip on his shoulder knowing that nothing will be given to him and everything will be all right.”
In his summer league debut July 7, Liddell took top billing with a 27-point effort. One week later, which was Brown’s first game of the summer, Liddell finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Together, Brown and Liddell overwhelmed their opponents despite only meeting each other shortly before tip.
“That’s what makes pros, pros, being able to adjust to different situations,” Brown said. “We’re used to having different teammates every game sometimes, so it’s nothing new. It takes a couple plays to feel them out. You see how the guys move and I was able to see real quick that he was a strong guy, he could shoot and he had a good feel for the game.”
This week, Brown will suit up for a team of Wisconsin alumni dubbed Kohl Blooded as part of The Basketball Tournament. Should they keep winning, the team that also features fellow Ohioan Nigel Hayes could face the team of Ohio State alumni before the end of the weekend in the single-elimination tournament.
It could be viewed as a chance for revenge against a program that didn’t offer them. After a Badgers home win against the Buckeyes in 2016 that at one point featured three Ohioans on the court for Wisconsin and none for Ohio State, this reporter asked Hayes for his thoughts.
“They got the guys they wanted. I'll take my two Final Fours and carry on my merry way,” he said before knocking his microphone over to close the press conference.
Brown, one of those three Ohioans in that game, said those words stay true today.
“I mean, like he said, their loss,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, we had four guys from Ohio on Wisconsin and to me that shouldn’t be possible. Ohio State, they have first dibs on all Ohio guys, and so because they wanted to reach out and try to get five-star guys or whatever, Wisconsin said we’ll take these under-the-radar guys who work hard and have a chip on their shoulder and, like Nigel said, two Final Fours and a (24)-point blowout at Ohio State. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”