COLUMBIA — Former San Antonio Spur Antonio Daniels was teasing BreAnna Brock.
“You can’t dunk?” he asked Brock, a 6-foot-2 forward on the Missouri women’s basketball team.
“No,” Brock responded. “I’ve never tried.”
Brock and Daniels were at a basketball camp last summer in San Antonio, Texas, which is Brock’s hometown. Brock works the camp every summer, which is put on by Mike Mitchell, who Brock says is like an uncle to her. Mitchell thrived alongside George Gervin as a small forward for the Spurs in the 1980s.
In response to Daniel’s taunts, Brock picked up a child's basketball and started to experiment.
“I was just playing around when I dunked it,” Brock said.
She then grabbed a normal size women’s basketball, which she has no problem palming, and made her way to halfcourt. Once there, she ran all the way to the basket, jumped, extended the ball high above her head with a long right arm and threw it down.
“I didn’t even know I did it at first,“ Brock said.
But she had done it. She had dunked, something most players in women’s college basket don’t have the ability to do. Dunking is usually associated with the men’s game, but Brock is used to doing everything the guys do.
Brock has three older brothers and no sisters. Her brothers were all into sports, and Brock never shied away from playing with them. When she was young, Brock would play tackle football in the yard with her brothers and other boys from the neighborhood.
She wasn’t playing with your average boys, either. All three of Brock’s brothers were athletic. One went on to be a state champion high jumper in high school. Another nearly made the roster of the Houston Texans. Growing up and competing with her brothers wasn’t easy for Brock.
“It was very competitive and hard,” Brock said. “Being one of four and the only girl and the baby was really hard for me. But my brothers just made me tougher, which is a good thing I guess. I think they actually kind of helped me with my game today because of my aggressiveness.”
That aggressiveness is apparent as soon as Brock takes the court. She has played limited minutes off the bench this year, but usually provides an instant spark as soon as she enters the game. Brock leads the team in blocked shots and rebounds per minute played, and she’s shown the ability to take over a game for a short period of time.
Brock isn’t the type of player that looks like she has the ability to dominate a game. She’s tall and lanky and wears her hair in a bun that extends high above her head. Her thick-rimmed black glasses, which are worn only when she plays basketball ever since she tore a retina in high school, don’t indicate that she’s the most athletic player on the team.
In addition to her appearance, she is mild-mannered and has a calm demeanor, but that all changes whenever she gets the ball on the block. She looks determined to score and uses the toughness instilled in her by her brothers to bully her way to the basket. It’s usually a quick, seemingly unstoppable drop step that gets Brock to the basket for an easy layup.
Those quick feet may have come from her mother, who danced ballet. Or maybe they came from her father, whose sport was basketball. Growing up, Brock would often go the YMCA with her dad and play pickup games. Brock went on to be a three-sport standout at Wagner High School, earning all-district honors in volleyball and basketball and just missed going to state in the high jump, leaping 5 feet, 8 inches.
But like her father, Brock’s sport is basketball. In her first two seasons at Missouri, Brock saw few minutes but showed some promise. Her minutes were low again this year until she scored 12 points in a breakout performance versus Missouri-Kansas City on Dec. 11.
She still has averaged less than ten minutes a game this season.
“We’ve got to get more consistency from her.” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.
Brock admits that her lack of consistency comes from a lack of mental toughness and confidence in herself. It’s a problem she’s struggled with every since arriving at Missouri. But she seems to be showing improvement in that area, gaining confidence as the season progresses.
Brock's minutes should increase in the coming games. With the injury of Christine Flores, Brock and Shakara Jones should get the majority of the minutes in the post.
“We’re getting more minutes from her, which is good,” Pingeton said. “And she’s doing some really good things, but we’re not looking for good, we’re looking for great.”
Under Pingeton's new style of play, Brock has been able to use her athleticism to its fullest extent.
“I didn’t realized how athletic I was at one point,” Brock said. “With the new coach, I do realize that. I’m able to utilize that as far as my jumping abilities and rebounding and just getting up and down the court in general.”
Although Brock can “jump out the gym,” as teammate RaeShara Brown put it, Tigers fans shouldn’t expect to see a dunk from Brock anytime soon. She’s only dunked once, and she hasn’t put any emphasis on trying to do it again.
“I’ve just been focused on the fundamentals of the game,” she said.