COLUMBIA — RaeShara Brown has mastered the art of thievery. She can sense an opportunity to make a steal. Fellow senior Jasmyn Otote has seen her do it time and again.
“She’s so aggressive,” Otote said. “It’s easy when you play hard every play. You can get a steal almost every play like she does.”
Missouri guard RaeShara Brown will go for the steals record Saturday when the Tigers play against Oklahoma at 2 p.m. in Norman. The Sooners' Danielle Robinson leads the Big 12 with 63 steals and is third in the conference with 19.7 points per game.
Oklahoma is 17-6 overall and 7-3 in Big 12 play.
Brown prides herself on defense, saying it’s the one thing she can control. Obviously, Brown doesn’t get a steal nearly every play like Otote suggests. She averages 2.48 per game. But she is all over the floor on defense, and no woman to put on a uniform for the Missouri women's basketball team has produced more steals than Brown.
With one more steal, Brown will stand alone as the all-time steals leader for Tigers women’s basketball. Currently, she is tied atop the list with former Tiger Joni Davis, who recorded 248 steals from 1982 to 1985.
Anytime a pass is thrown within striking distance, Brown’s eyes light up, and she leaps to the ball like a lion pursuing its prey. When she comes up with the steal, she doesn’t stop. She is instantly pushing the ball up the floor, trying for an easy basket in transition.
“Fast-break steals shift momentum real quick,” Brown said. “It makes it easier for your offense. If you get an easy bucket, it kind of gets you going.”
Brown’s aggressive, go-all-out style of defense mixes well with her quickness and athleticism. Add in her court awareness, and the result is a steal-producing machine.
“I can pretty much see the play happening and what’s about to happen,” Brown said. “I’m waiting for it to develop. I know if a player is forcing someone baseline and cuts the sideline off, her only other option is the spin move, so you’re coming up from behind, and you get that steal.”
When listening to Brown explain other situations in which she knows what the ball handler’s only options are, it’s apparent that the two-time member of the Academic All-Big 12 team is a student of the game as well.
“She’s pretty good at breaking down opponents’ strengths and weaknesses,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “It’s a combination of being athletic, skilled and having a great understanding of the game (that leads to Brown’s steals)."
Despite being as quick as anyone on the court, Brown's speed isn’t as crucial to getting steals as one might think.
“I never thought about me using my speed to get steals,” Brown said. “It’s more about seeing the ball. Mostly, I just be active with my hands, depending on them a lot to get my steals rather than just trying to shoot the gaps.”
Among Brown’s 248 career steals, there is one that stands out more than the others. It was during the 2008-09 season when she was a sophomore, and the Tigers were clinging to a one-point lead against Nebraska. The Huskers had the ball with a chance to win.
“There was about 12 seconds on the clock,” Brown said. “Girl was driving to the hole and tried to dish it off, and I kind of hit it and dove on it at the last second. That pretty much secured the game.”
Brown went on to make 79 steals that season to lead the Big 12. Her 88 steals last year also led the conference. This season, her 57 steals are good for third in the conference. She is on pace for 74 steals by the end of the regular season.
When asked what setting the school’s all-time steals record means to her, Brown paused, trying to figure out how to put it into words.
“It’s a very, very humbling thing,” she finally said. “You always want to leave some kind of legacy behind. To be able to put your name in the record books means a lot. When you look back on it, you can always say, ‘Missouri is going to remember me for that.’”