The old adage goes: "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." That fits pretty closely for Gary Browne as he remains very connected to his native Puerto Rico. Even while he is fighting for 7DAYS EuroCup hardware, the Dolomiti Energia Trento playmaker is also thinking about basketball goals back in his home country.
Browne, 27, played a major role in getting Trento to the Top 16 for the third time in the last four seasons with 14.6 points, 4,1 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.1 steals for an average index rating of 19.0 in the EuroCup regular season. Among his highlights was flirting with a triple-double as he collected 30 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists in a 102-104 double-overtime loss at home versus Nanterre 92. Browne's PIR of 41 that night set the club record.
"It was disappointing because we didn't end up with a win. We were up by three with 6 seconds left and we let them bring the ball up when we could have just fouled. Those are the little things that we learn from. One thing good we can take from that game is that we now know what we can do in those situations because it cost us the game. Regardless of my performance, it doesn’t count if you don’t win," said Browne.
"It's always great playing the EuroCup because you get to play teams that have a lot of history in each of their countries."
The 1.85-meter guard is spending his second season in the EuroCup after playing for Darussafaka Istanbul in 2019-20. He led that club through the regular season before finishing third in their Top 16 group and missing the quarterfinals after losing a do-or-die game to Virtus Segafredo Bologna in the final game. Browne said he enjoyed facing storied European clubs such as Virtus, Joventut Badalona, UNICS Kazan and Partizan NIS Belgrade.
"It's always great playing the EuroCup because you get to play teams that have a lot of history in each of their countries. It was great to see how the teams are managed, how the coaches work. You can see the facilities. It’s always good to play at a high level so you can see those types of things because you never know where you’re gonna end up," he explained.
Those wondering what attracted Trento to Browne need to just look at how he performed against them in the Top 16 last season - scoring 18 points in the first game and then picking up 14 points and 7 assists in the second one.
"I wasn’t surprised when they called because I could see what type of players the Trento coach likes. And I feel that I fit into his system and what he believes. And that is why I was happy when I got that call from them. I wanted to give myself a chance to play at a high level with a style that fits me. And that is the main reason I came here," Browne said.
Browne has slowly but surely rose the ranks in Europe after coming from the established West Virginia University program, where he went through two lean years in between trips to the NCAA Tournament. His first season out of college in 2015-16 was spent in Cyprus where he was said he "just wanted to play my game and be the guy I was before."
He took off the following season in Europe and from May 2016 to February 2017 improved his diet and his workout program to prepare for the Puerto Rican BSN league, which begins in the spring and runs for four months to early summer. The hard work paid off as he won the MVP award of the league and led his team, Atleticos de San German, to the playoffs.
That performance also helped Browne land a spot in the Israeli League in 2017 with Ironi Nes Ziona. He helped the club to the Round of 16 of the FIBA Europe Cup the following season before heading to Turkey and Darussafaka in 2019. Once each of those European seasons ended, Browne headed back home to Puerto Rico to battle for hardware in the BSN.
"I always go back because I love playing in front of my people and playing in the league in my country," he said. "It’s just something that I want to do because it’s my country’s league and I want to make sure that I have a great legacy there as well. Sure, it might be hard because I am overseas for 10 months and then miss a lot of games, but I want to leave a mark on the game there when I am done."
Browne has already earned a major spot in Puerto Ricans’ hearts for his accomplishments with the country’s national team. He played a major role in helping the country qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019 and then in his debut on the world stage Browne buried a three-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give Puerto Rico a 67-64 victory over Tunisia to book a ticket to the second group stage of the competition.
"It was a great shot and we passed to the second round, so it was great. We might all remember the shot, but there were a lot of plays to get there. I am just happy that we were all able to accomplish that because we didn’t have a superstar on the team and we made history. It’s a great moment because it was a World Cup," said Browne, who averaged 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the tournament, which ended with Puerto Rico losing to Serbia and Italy in the second round and finishing 15th of 32 teams.
"My main goal is to win a championship in Puerto Rico."
Browne has now represented Puerto Rico on the continental and global stage; showed Europeans that Puerto Ricans can play the game at a high level and done his part in helping ensure that the domestic league on the island remains alive and well. But there is still one major accomplishment missing for him.
"My main goal is to win a championship in Puerto Rico. I have already won an MVP there. I was a star there and they know what I can do, but now it’s about winning a championship. Winning a championship would define my career. Of course, I have a lot of work to do to be at the same level as a lot of the great players that they have, but that is my main goal."
When asked how a title in Puerto Rico would compare to a trophy in Europe, he explained: "It’s separate, but it’s in Puerto Rico so I would see it as something big. Of course, it’s harder in Europe because it’s Europe and you play throughout Europe and in Puerto Rico, you only play in Puerto Rico. But it’s a very competitive league. A lot of guys who have played in the NBA have played there a lot of years. It’s very competitive, but it’s just different."
There’s always a little thought about Puerto Rico here or there popping up for Browne while he’s in Europe fighting for a trophy because his love and pride of his homeland just won’t go away.