Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown answers a question during basketball media day in in October in Stillwater, Okla. Brown was a standout player at Peabody Magnet High in Alexandria. / AP
Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown dunks against Portland State in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Nov. 25. Oklahoma State won 81-58. AP Photo
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The coaches and staff first came filing off the practice court at Oklahoma State University.
It had been a long basketball practice the evening of Dec. 12, a three-hour trial smack in the middle of finals week.
Players for the No. 24-ranked Cowboys (8-1) began trickling off the court next, slapping the hands of some the athletics department brass as they sauntered to the locker room to clean up before studying for their remaining tests.
Save for captain Markel Brown.
"I was working on my shots," Brown said later when asked why he was the last one off the court. "Working on game time shots, baseline spin moves, stuff like that."
And that isn't a rare thing for the former star at Peabody Magnet High in Alexandria, La.
"He knows what he needs to do," associate head coach Butch Pierre said. "He's sometimes one of the first ones on the court for practice and one of the last ones off."
Yet, this was a work ethic Brown had to grow into during his first two years with the Cowboys.
His freshman season in 2010-2011 included a lot of ups and downs, starting 10 out of 34 games including one game where he played only 11 minutes against Big 12 rival Texas Tech.
Brown discovered that high school talent couldn't carry him through to the next level, and he saw the adjustments he had to make.
"I matured on and off the court," the 20-year-old guard said. "Having all the guys telling me what to do my freshman year and actually putting it all together my sophomore year was big for me.
"I got a lot more playing time my sophomore year."
And his second year numbers show that effort.
He started 26 of the 33 games in 2011-2012, increasing his average by four points to 10.5 points per game and coming within eight of setting the school record for blocked shots by a guard. Going into Wednesday's game against Texas-Arlington, Brown was within two blocks of tying the current all-time record of 60, which belongs to 6-foot-6 San Antonio Spurs guard James Anderson.
The 6-foot-3 Brown was a roommate with then-captain Keiton Page during his first two years, and that experience shaped his approach to the game on and off the court, he said.
"I took away being a hothead," Brown said. "I had to focus on playing more and not talking to the refs or to the other players."
And now, as a junior, he is trying to pass along that experience to his teammates.
"I see myself as a leader on and off the court vocally," Brown said. "Mostly telling those guys what it's like, what I've been through. I have the most experience on the team. I'm kind of like the old guy on the team."
Yet, he also leads by example by continuing to improve his performance and his stats.
Brown has again upped his points average to an even 14, shooting about 45 percent from the floor and sinking just under a third of his three-point attempts.
This area of his game has been a big focus for him and his coaches.
Brown received a lot of national attention last year for his dunking ability. NBCSports.com's CollegeBasketballTalk named him "Dunker of the Year." ESPN's Dunks of the Year gave him the "Best Body of Work" award, and the network's Sean Farham ranked two of Brown's dunks in a win against then-second-ranked Missouri in his top 10 college dunks of the year. He took the top spot with an alley-oop from his roommate Page.
"It gave me a lot of hype," Brown said. "Guys started looking for me to dunk. So it gave me motivation to work on my shot more."
It's those kinds of realizations that have dramatically improved Brown's game, Pierre said.
"He's become more of a complete player," Pierre said. "He's picking his spots and hitting his shots."
Brown is always the most athletic guy on the floor, Pierre said, but remaining "coachable" has allowed him to improve his weaker areas and round out the team on both sides of the court.
Yet, Brown said he would also like to see gains in his supporting roles on the court by being more consistent in rebounding -- he has averaged just over five per game through last season -- and assists.
"Whatever it takes, whether it's setting up guys with alley-oops or helping kick it out for more threes, I just want to help my teammates," Brown said