She touched so many lives in so little time
Learning lessons from people we never knew seems to be the theme of local Sasha Brown who died suddenly last week sending shockwaves felt from Atherton to Rocklin.
Brown, who would have celebrated her 22nd birthday last Sunday, was an athlete taking her talents from Rocklin High School to Sierra College and then to Menlo College in Atherton. Although her basketball statistic wouldn’t classify her as dominant, her apparent indomitable spirit would. From Facebook to the hardwood, the expressions of those she knew painted a picture of someone as delightful as she was talented.
“From her smile you can tell the difference Sasha can make wherever she is,” said 2012-13 senior Menlo College teammate Sareen Ohanian, as reported on the school’s website. “She (had) the power to deeply impact every person she … ever met and that's all she ever wanted as a daughter, sister, teammate and a friend.”
From a basketball point of view, it’s remarkable the impact she had on her coaches and teammates in spite of numbers that typically wouldn’t attract that much attention. Although she was a top scorer her junior year at Rocklin High School; her points-per-game average dropped to 6.4 as a senior following a severe shoulder injury.
At 5-feet 8-inches, Brown’s rebounding statistics were in the same range, but what she brought to the court is best described by the tribute paid by Sierra College on its website.
What stood out most about Sasha was her enthusiasm, her controlled aggression and her endless energy. She could be a vocal leader, but she led by example as she dove for loose balls and took charges. She had an intense scowl that struck fear into Wolverine opponents and an ear-to-ear smile that lit up the world around her. Many talk about the Wolverine Way, but only a few, like Sasha, have what it takes to live it on and off the court.
“Sasha has left a legacy in our program and many a future Wolverine will benefit from her contributions on and off the court,” said Brandie Murrish, Brown’s coach at Sierra College. “I know her spirit will live on in the Sierra College gym and inspire others to achieve their dreams.
“Sasha embodied what our program stood for and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to coach her,” Murrish added. “She was the consummate team captain who had a deep desire to have a positive impact on all that she met.”
Murrish said Brown’s competitive spirit often resulted in her having to defend the strongest player on the opposing team. But she seemed to relish that role and always gave 100 percent, while at the same time encouraging her teammates no matter what status they held on the team.
Brown’s enthusiasm carried into the classroom as well. Tom Read, her marketing professor at Sierra College, said it was her mission to help others. She took all of Read’s classes and was his student assistant for two years.
“She was denied longevity, but she absolutely squeezed every amount of goodness out of herself and those around her in the time she had,” said Read. “She was a ‘lunch pail’ style basketball player doing all the dirty work, but she was a point guard in life. The role of the point guard is to make your teammates better. Sasha made us all better.”
Brown epitomized the term student-athlete as a three-sport athlete all four years in high school while carrying a straight-A average. She earned Sierra College’s Most Outstanding Student Scholarship and also received a business scholarship.
As a member of Menlo’s basketball team, Brown brought her game from the bench averaging about 13 minutes a game. Where some might not find that impressive, last year Menlo College claimed the California Pacific Conference regular-season and postseason tournament titles with a 26-4 record. That put the Oaks in the national championships for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for the second consecutive year.
Menlo College’s bench ranked as the most productive in the CalPac Conference. Brown and her teammate Carly Tristao were listed as the strongest one-two punch in the league.
“Sasha had a tremendous passion for basketball and played with great energy and enthusiasm,” said Menlo womens basketball head coach Shannon Osborne. “She always gave her best effort and was a focused defender and rebounder.
“She was such a positive person and her positivity and enthusiasm were contagious. She genuinely cared about people and often went out of her way to make others feel good,” Osborne continued. “Sasha was fun to be around and had a great laugh and was also dedicated and strove to be her best at everything she did.”
Brown took up the game of basketball at the age of 4 and her legacy will reflect she opened many doors by playing the game her entire sadly-shortened life. But those who knew her well were quite aware if wasn’t just basketball that endeared Brown to virtually everyone around her.
“Sasha's passion and positivity in everything she did was contagious throughout our whole team,” said Menlo teammate Jenna Marinaro. “Her hugs, smile, sense of humor and love would literally make my day better. Sasha was the heart of our family and she will be greatly missed by all.”
A memorial service for Sasha Brown was held at Centerpoint Community Church in Roseville July 19.