By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
2018 WBCA All-American and unanimous Big 12 player of the year Kalani Brown is coming to the end of her four-year tenure at Baylor.
Brown is a four-time Big 12 regular-season champion and is one of six Baylor athletes to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds — the most recent achievement in her record-holding Lady Bear career. Brown described her success in the Big 12 as the best part of her career.
“It gets competitive playing two people at a time, and just to win, I’m four-for-four, and so I got all four rings,” Brown said. “That was goal of mine, just to win consecutively. It never gets old, and just receiving the ring, that alone never gets old.”
Basketball is something that’s been in Brown’s blood since the day she came out of the womb. With her father playing 16 years in the NBA and her mother playing as a Lady Bear, Brown has been playing since the age of 6 and even attended Baylor basketball camps in middle school.
Although always exposed to the sport, Brown said the decision to pursue basketball, especially at Baylor, was solely hers.
“Believe it or not, my mom didn’t push for that either. She was like, ‘This is your recruiting process. You go where you want to go’,” Brown said. “And I was like, ‘Eh, there isn’t really anything better than Baylor.’ I know a lot of people think, ‘Oh, your mom played for Baylor so you’re going there.’ and I was like, ‘Nah. Not for my mom, but just for myself.’”
Independence and creating her own name and legacy are things Brown is passionate about. Noting advice her father gave to her to make her own path, Brown said she’s taken that advice personally in every aspect of her life.
“I have taken that initiative, not just with basketball, but with being a person as well trying to build my own name and trying to go my own way,” she said. “People will always be like, ‘Oh you have some big shoes to fill,’ you know? I just didn’t let that get to me. I’m doing this for me.”
As most Lady Bears fans have seen on the court, Brown’s independence and self-focus is seen in her appearance. On the court you can always catch No. 21 in a bright nail color and tightly braided hair. Brown said she wants to show basketball is more than masculinity.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes going around about women’s basketball, ‘Oh, they want to be men. Oh, they want to look that way,’” she said. “People talk about my nails and my lashes and my hair all the time and I take pride in that. I think it shows girls that you can still be pretty and play basketball at the same time.”
With high hopes of being drafted in WNBA and eventually becoming a motivational speaker or basketball reporter, Brown was able to reflect on her time at Baylor. Brown described how the program has brought her closer to faith, taught her how to speak and conduct herself, and most importantly, taught her how to be a woman. With that in mind, Brown had a few pieces of advice to her younger Lady Bears.
“Just yesterday, I was moving into the Texana dorms and now I’m about to be a grown-up and go to the next level,” Brown said. “For the younger Lady Bears, I say take every season seriously. Say we are to lose, they say, ‘Oh, we’ll have another season,’ but there will be a time that you won’t. And you can’t think like that; you have to take everything seriously.”
Brown also had advice to her future self and something she wish she could’ve told herself when she was younger.
“I’d tell my younger self that your time is coming just wait your turn and work hard,” Brown said. “And I’d tell my future self that the sky’s the limit for you, so keep going.”
Brown hopes that in the future, after her basketball career, she can be a voice for the community and leave a mark by inspiring others.
“I know being from Louisiana, New Orleans has a lot of great athletes that never make it out because they just don’t have the resources or they’re not around great people,” she said. “So maybe going back to those type of communities and talking to kids and saying, ‘Hey, you can make it being from Louisiana’ … People don’t really look at Louisiana to be recruited. So I think you can make it and if you make the right decisions, then you know, you can be anything’.”
As Brown’s college career comes to an end, her future aspirations are just beginning. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey had the opportunity to reflect on the legacy she said Brown has created.
“She is up there with the greatest of greats that have played here, could be a three-time All-American,” Mulkey said. “Everything people do revolves around Kalani Brown, offensively and defensively … She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do, she’s had a good year in the league. She’s surrounded by great players and she makes those players around her even better. She’s just special.”