Iowa Men's Basketball

Luka Garza still has 3 20-point games to catch Downtown Freddie Brown

Brown scored 20-plus on 16 consecutive occasions for 1970-71 Hawkeyes

Iowa senior guard Fred Brown spins a basketball on his fingers as head coach Dick Schultz watches at the team's Media Da
Iowa senior guard Fred Brown spins a basketball on his fingers as head coach Dick Schultz watches at the team's Media Day for the 1970-71 season on Oct. 14, 1970. Brown averaged 27.6 points per game that season for the Hawkeyes.

I’ve been shortchanging Fred Brown, and I’m here to make amends.

Recently, I’ve been writing that Brown held Iowa’s record for most-consecutive 20-point games with 13, a mark Hawkeye center Luka Garza hit Tuesday night. However, that was 13 straight Big Ten games in 1970-71. His overall streak of 20-point games was 16.

It began with 25 points against Iowa State, and included games against Wyoming and Cincinnati as well as the 13 conference games. His low marks in those 16 games were 23-point outings against Cincinnati and Indiana. His high was 37 at home against Purdue.

Brown did that on a team that went 9-15 overall and 4-10 in the Big Ten for first-year head coach Dick Schultz, and was the only returning starter from the club that went 14-0 in the Big Ten the season before. That, by the way, was Iowa’s last outright league title. The Hawkeyes last shared the championship in 1979.

Brown, from Milwaukee via Southeastern Community College in Burlington, averaged 17.9 points for Iowa’s 1970 title team. That supported forward John Johnson, who averaged 27.9.

You think the Hawkeyes have been playing short-handed the last three games with a seven-man rotation? Ralph Miller basically used six players at an ultra-high tempo on that ‘70 team, leading to the nickname “Miller’s Six-Pack.”

Brown was only the third-highest scorer on that team. Guard Chad Calabria averaged 19.1 points. Forward Glenn Vidnovic averaged 17.9. Brown and Johnson were from Milwaukee, Calabria and Vidnovic from the Pittsburgh area.

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Johnson and Brown were teammates on the Seattle SuperSonics’ NBA championship season of 1978-79.

Johnson in 1969-70 and Brown the following season are the two highest points-per-game averages in Iowa history. They were done without benefit of the 3-point shot, and both would have made bushel-baskets of those baskets.

They didn’t call him “Downtown Freddie” Brown for nothing, you know.

Brown was the No. 6 pick in the 1971 NBA draft, which still stands as the highest a Hawkeye has been selected. He spent all 13 of his pro seasons with Seattle. He played in 963 games, averaging 14.8 points with a high season of 23.1 in 1975-76.

 

The 3-point shot was part of the NBA for only the last five years of his career. In the first season of its existence, Brown made 39 of 88 for 44.3 percent.

He played in 83 playoff games and one All-Star Game. His No. 32 jersey number was retired by the Sonics in 1986. Here is a 2003 New York Times story about Brown’s life after basketball.

That Brown could average 27.6 points for an Iowa team on which no one else topped 10 per game is amazing. You know defenses keyed on him. Yet, he was held under 23 points just three times in 24 games, and had 30-plus on 10 occasions.

So, now we’re clear. Garza has tied Brown’s mark of 13 straight Big Ten games of 20 points. It’s the first time a player from the conference has done that in the last 20 years, by the way. Garza can break that mark Saturday when the Hawkeyes host Penn State.

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He’ll have to finish the regular season with three 20-point games to tie Brown’s Iowa record. Anyone betting against it?

One thing that won’t change: Nobody in Hawkeyes history has had a cooler nickname than Downtown Freddie Brown.

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