Cindy Stein has done something that basketball coaches have been attempting for years. She has managed to find an all-purpose name for the defensive deflections, the dives onto the court, the offensive rebounds and the dozen or so other small things that players do to help their team win.
To the Missouri women's basketball coach, they're all "dirty points." And they're good things.
As fans would expect, dirty points don't show up on any stat sheet kept by Missouri coaches. But that doesn't mean Stein isn't keeping track. The topic comes up more often than any other.
"You get noticed more for dirty points than anything," sophomore guard Jasmyn Otote said. And there's no doubt which player gets noticed more than the rest: sophomore RaeShara Brown.
“Rae brings all the little things. The little things are the big things, and we talk about dirty points. She leads us. She’s probably our dirty leader," Stein said.
Brown, who said she leads best by example, is proud to say that she is a player who focuses more on defense and doing the dirty work for the Tigers.
“Everybody gets a rebound off a missed shot, everybody gets a defensive rebound," Brown said. "But not everybody can get an offensive rebound, and that’s a dirty point because you have to go want that.”
At 5 feet, 8 inches, Brown looks up to every player on Missouri's roster except 5-foot-7 Toy Richbow. Yet Brown has collected the most offensive rebounds (20) for the Tigers, and she is second only to 6-foot-1 Jessra Johnson in overall rebounding.
“A lot of people look at me like 'Oh she’s too short to get rebounds.' But it’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life," said Brown, who averages 6.3 rebounds per game. "I think it’s fun to be able to outjump 6-footers."
A year ago as a freshman, Brown played in a limited role for Missouri, appearing in every game but averaging just nine minutes of playing time and 1.1 points a game.
“I think last year as a freshman, I came in with the mentality, you know, obviously everybody wants to play," Brown said. "It’s not realistic that everybody’s going to get to play, but what you can take from that role is, ‘I’m going to learn. I’m going to make myself better,’ and I think that’s what I did last year. I think I picked up on a lot of things. I learned from a lot of my mistakes. I vowed not to do them again, or to try to prevent them.”
In the offseason Brown improved her conditioning so she could keep up with the fast pace of the Big 12 Conference and said she worked to become a better "offensive player within our offense," meaning she is now more comfortable taking open shots when given the opportunity.
The work has led to a bigger role for Brown, who has started all eight games for Missouri this season. In the team's victory over Bradley on Tuesday she scored a career-high 11 points.
“She’s really grown her game where she’ll make a mistake, and she rebounds from it quickly and something bad might happen, but she’ll cause something good to happen next," Stein said.
Stein said Missouri, which has won its past three games to improve to 4-4 this season, still plays "sloppy" too often. Stein has continued to stress the need for her team to stay focused and play hard for a complete game like the team's dirty points leader.
“You want everyone to play like that," Stein said about Brown, "and she’s a great example for kids. We sometimes have trouble replacing her because she provides so much.”
The Tigers will face the University of Tennessee-Martin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mizzou Arena. The Ohio Valley Conference team is 1-6 this season and averages 22 turnovers a game, a tendency Stein said Missouri will try to exploit.