“Everybody knows how important Brent is and what type of kid he is. … Now he gets the opportunity to really put his own personal mark on this basketball team. That’s the reason why we are where we are right now.” – Coach Sean Woods on Morehead State fifth-year senior guard Brent Arrington.
Where the Eagles are right now is 6-3, heading into Wednesday’s game at Davidson.
Arrington, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from Baltimore, has been a key to the early success even though his health is less than 100 percent due to a sore left knee.
A preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, Arrington is averaging 7.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also second on the team with seven blocks.
Arrington says he was three or four years old when he was first introduced to basketball by his stepfather, Malvin Milburn. Arrington continued up the game ladder, improving through clinics, AAU ball, high school and prep school.
His biggest adjustment came when he moved from high school in Baltimore to prep school at the Southern Sports Academy in Jackson, Miss.
In addition to being away from home for the first time in his life, he went from a laid back “just let ’em play” coach in high school to a drill sergeant of a prep school mentor, Victor Evans. Arrington did not take to salty language well. He thought about going home.
“But, I learned,” he said. “My parents told me ‘it’s not the way it’s said; it’s only the message.’ So I started trying to not hear what he’s saying and how loud it’s coming at me. Just ‘what does he want me to do?'”
That change in attitude made all the difference. Arrington not only began to get the message, he grew close to Evans. They still stay in touch.
“Even though he was that coach, an up-in-your-face type of guy, he was probably one of the guys that gave me so much confidence going on towards college,” Arrington said. “He told me he ‘loved my work ethic and just keep working, because you’ll make it.’ He really had faith in me, that I’d be able to play at a high level someday. That was probably the biggest turning point in my basketball career.”
Prep school also is where Arrington was discovered by Woods, who then was head coach at Mississippi Valley State.
As a freshman, Arrington played in 31 games for MVSU, averaging 6.8 points and 2.7 rebounds. The Delta Devils went 21-13, won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
When Woods subsequently was hired by Morehead State, Arrington didn’t hesitate to transfer.
“The playing style is just great,” Arrington said. “I like to get up and down. I’m an athletic player. This year I’m a little down because my knee’s messed up, but I just love getting up and down, and defending really hard against an offense and things like that. I just kind of like the organized chaos that we have now.”
Arrington says his knee is rapidly improving since having lateral meniscus surgery in October. But, he’s not 100 percent, so he has adapted his game.
“I’ve been a slasher in the past few years. So I’m pretty quick getting to the basket, and I can jump,” he said. “But, right now I’m trying to become a better playmaker. Make plays for other players, at least draw the attention of the defense away from me so that, when it comes later in the game, it’s a little bit easier to score. Because I don’t have my full athleticism with me right now.”
Woods calls Arrington “a great on-ball defender,” and says the player’s biggest improvement since his freshman season is “just playing without fouling anymore”.
“You never see him playing out of control, instead he’s keeping it simple,” said Woods. “He’s a very energetic, high-octane type basketball player. One of the things he had problems with earlier in his career was being able to play at a pace. He’s gotten older, and he’s doing it for us now.”
Having earned his undergraduate degree in marketing last May, Arrington is a graduate student in sports management. He proudly notes that he earned two B’s and an A this semester, and that he has had a 3.0-or-better grade-point average throughout college.
He says he’s naturally soft-spoken. But, as a senior leader, he has made a conscious effort to speak up this season.
And he thinks Morehead State has what it takes to go where Mississippi Valley State went in 2012 – the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely think this team has what it takes. I have the same vibes,” Arrington said. “The leadership, I feel, is in the same position. The way we play as a team, it’s like so many things click with this team. The team is just so unselfish here. Very unselfish. Plays great defense. And everybody listens to Coach. That’s one of the biggest things – everybody listens, everybody wants to become better and everybody will do whatever it takes to become better. This team is going to get really good by the end of the year.”