Jensen: Aaron Brown finds his game at St. Joe's

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Saint Joseph's Hawks guard Aaron Brown (2) dribbles past Temple Owls guard Devin Coleman (34) during the first half at Liacouras Center.

NEW YORK - Some scribbled notes from the opening minutes of Sunday's Atlantic Ten championship game: Brown pull-up . . . Brown drive & dunk . . . Brown drives.

That was from the first four minutes as St. Joseph's got in front of Virginia Commonwealth and stayed there at the Barclays Center. Hawks senior Aaron Brown exemplified what he later articulated, the need to get in the first punch.

Asked about Brown and his game, St. Joe's teammate Isaiah Miles said postgame: "Oh, man, aggressive. When he said he wanted to punch first, everyone knew that he was punching. I mean, wow, he came out and he scored 10 straight, right?"

It felt like it. Brown scored 10 of St. Joe's first 16 points. More notes: Brown fastbreak layup . . . Brown layup.

"It's just great because I've been through so much in my college career," Brown said after the Hawks found out they are the No. 8 seed in the NCAA West, facing Cincinnati late Friday night in Spokane, Wash. "To have this run and to be able to go out as a champion and to be able to play more is just a blessing all in one."

Some irony from Hawks coach Phil Martelli: "He's still an awful layup shooter. For a kid that skilled and that size, he should be a great layup shooter."

This wasn't an attempt to pour water on what had just happened. Martelli was just providing context. He also mentioned Brown's infectious confidence. He is a huge part of this 27-7 Hawks puzzle, the third-leading scorer, an easy choice for the A-10 all-tournament team after Brown took his game up even higher in Brooklyn, averaging 16 points a game for the three days.

Right afterward, Martelli went back to a February conversation when the coach had data in hand.

Martelli: "This can't continue."

(From late January into mid-February, there was a six-game stretch during which Brown made 11 of 36 shots.)

Brown to Martelli: "I get it, and it won't."

A 6-foot-5 wing player out of Darby in Delaware County, starting full-time for the first time in his career after transferring away from a deep bench spot at West Virginia, Brown was remembered for his days as a big-time player at Penn Wood High.

"Before I knew him, Coach Martelli told me he was a dog in high school," said Hawks star DeAndre' Bembry, making it clear he meant that in the most positive sense. "I'm happy that he brought the dog out today for us."

Martelli said he didn't want to be disrespectful but needed to continue the analogy, talking about how St. Joe's needed Brown to be "a domesticated dog and not a wild dog, because wild wouldn't help us."

It's interesting to hear Martelli talk about Brown when he first showed up as a transfer. Martelli used the word "chaotic" to describe the transition.

"He was playing to show everybody that he was wronged at West Virginia," Martelli said.

Sitting out the first year but able to practice, Brown was all over the place, Martelli said, "trying things that he can't do." The Hawks coach recalled how Brown then wanted to start, but freshman James Demery got that spot last season. They pretty much switched roles for this season.

"It's hard to be a local kid and come back to Philadelphia because people think you're a star and you have to be honest about your game," Martelli said.

For the Hawks, Brown really fills a hole with his ability to get to the rim and hit outside jumpers. It's a good blend of athleticism and savvy.

Asked about how much Brown had changed during almost three years on Hawk Hill, Martelli said, "180 degrees. He's completely different. He was emotional to the point of being hard to deal with. Every play in practice, he wants a call. So he's gotten no calls. I don't call that many fouls in practice anyway. But from his first day when everything was a foul, you're not getting it. So you either settle in . . . Same thing for school."

It's interesting that this season Brown is listed as a guard and Bembry as a forward. It seemed weird since they're both wings, but you start to understand why as Martelli keeps talking about Brown.

"Last year, he played as a four man," Martelli said. "We don't play numerically, but he played as a big. This year, he plays on the wing. But about 45 percent of the time, he's in there with Isaiah, and he hasn't blinked. Last year, 'Oh, the guy's too big. You didn't help me.' Now, he's grown up. He's a man."

There's a note worth scribbling down.

"On a team that has men, he certainly adds to the tapestry," Martelli said.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus