Badgers Vitto Brown Suns

Aug 16, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Vitto Brown (30) dribbles against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Matt Ryan (37) during an NBA Summer League game at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Getting an opportunity to join an NBA Summer League roster is a remarkable feat. It is one step closer to landing an NBA contract. But making a squad for the first time at 26 years old is almost unheard of. Well, unless you have the determination like former Wisconsin Badgers forward Vitto Brown.

Since leaving Wisconsin, Brown has played multiple seasons in the NBA G League, where he has fine-tuned his offensive game while playing for Maine, Agua Caliente, Wisconsin, Maine (again) and Erie.

He went from 7.6 points a game in 2017 to 10.4 the following year and then 15.3 the next season. Playing for the Erie BayHawks, Brown even dropped 29 points vs. the Wisconsin Herd and 31 points vs. the Greensboro Swarm in the same week in January 2020. 

In May 2020 he signed with Le Mans of France’s Jeep Elite league, where he averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 rebounds while connecting on 46 of 115 3-point attempts (40.0%). He parlayed that into a deal with Phoenix at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League.

“The journey has been all over the place,” Brown said. “Played three years in the G League, one year in France during the pandemic -- and that came with plenty of challenges -- but we never gave up. Thankfully I was able to finish of the year strong in France, got an opportunity to come out here with the Phoenix Suns, and trying to make the most of it.

“I played really well to the end of the season in France and they had a foreign scout over there and my agent said they (Suns) were looking at me, but they might need a couple of weeks. Then I had a really good game the next night, and next thing I know I had an invitation. The dream’s alive. I’m giving this my all.”

Every stop Brown has made, he’s been a sponge along the way. Instead of just going through the motions and just playing, Brown is seeing, studying and feeling all the different basketball methods.

“I have just learned the game more,” Brown said. “Playing in the G League, playing at Wisconsin, playing overseas; those are all like different styles of basketball. So, when you really combine all of the different techniques and skills of each one, it kind of prepares you for this level, I believe.”

Brown still keeps in contact with his former Badgers teammates almost on a regular daily basis through a group text and has even worked out a few times with Nigel Hayes, who was at Wisconsin at the same time from 2013-17.

But what exactly were Brown’s favorite Badger moments?

“Besides the obvious Final Fours,” said a chuckling Brown, “Maryland (in 2016) always sticks out to me. Obviously, it was my career high (21 points), but at the same time it was a game that we weren’t expected to win and we all rallied together and we beat them in their home court. I’ll never forget that one.”

The Terrapins were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time and had won 27 consecutive games at home, a school record.

Like many athletes, Brown has talents beyond the court. He is a singer -- you might remember his renditions of the national anthem before a handful of Badgers games -- and in the midst of a recording an album which should be out soon.

It doesn’t stop there, though. During the pandemic, he even showed off his sewing skills. Brown and his mother Sheila crafted 2,000 face masks.

Wait, there’s more. Brown is also an intense fitness enthusiast. Aside from eating plenty of greens and fruits -- he doesn’t have a set diet per se -- he always works out before he eats.

Just 80 miles east from where Brown played his college basketball was an electric Milwaukee during the NBA Finals. The Bucks and the packed Deer District got on a global stage, but Brown was already well aware of the passionate Wisconsin fan base.

“I was conflicted because I already knew I was coming out here to Phoenix, so I didn’t know who to go for,” Brown joked. “No, It was awesome to see. I’m happy that Wisconsin was able to take back the championship. We know we got some of the realest fans in Wisconsin.”