Before the start of each season, Detrek Browning makes a list of goals and checks them off as he goes.
This year’s list doesn’t have many blanks next to them.
Make first team all-Peach Belt? Done. Be the PBC Player of Year? Lead the PBC in scoring? Done. Get Francis Marion back to the NCAA Tournament? Check.
Browning also accomplished two other goals on the list – become FMU’s all-time leading scorer and the Peach Belt’s all-time leading scorer. He became the PBC’s all-time scorer with 27 points Saturday in the 75-72 loss to UNC Pembroke in the first round of the Divison II tournament.
For his career, he finished with 2,356 points.
“Breaking the records at FMU has been a dream,” said Browning, who was named PBC Player of the Week a record seven times this year. “Told myself before the season that I wanted to be the best player in the conference, period. I wanted to distance myself so far from the other players so that the Peach Belt wouldn’t have a choice but to pick me.”
Browning called his senior year, his “Michael Jackson Farewell Tour.” He saidit went by in a blur but, he tried to savor it as much as he could. He hopes to continue his playing career either in the U.S. or overseas and admits it’s going to be weird not putting that FMU uniform on next season.
Heading into Saturday’s tournament game, Browning was fourth in Division II in scoring at 24.5 points per game, had 2,329 career points and held more than a dozen school records. All that is not bad for a player who wanted to be a football player but got cut from his middle school team his seventh- and eighth-grade year.
Browning, who didn’t begin playing organized basketball until he was 12, “cried like a baby” the two years he didn’t make the Irmo Middle School team.
“I never even made it to the final cut,” Browning said. “But my mom said it was going to be all right. And my middle school coach, coach Lee, I tell him thank you every time I see him. Because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Browning used the middle school snubs as motivation as he began his Irmo career playing for hall of fame coach Tim Whipple. As a sophomore, he came off the bench to help the Yellow Jackets to a state title. Then, as senior, the point guard helped Irmo to a 29-0 record and another state title.
“Coach Whipple taught me how to play the point guard position and to be a basketball player. Preparation is what I got from coach Whipple,” Browning said. “Coming to the game and be ready. If you are ready mentally, you are ahead.”
Despite the success and all-state accolades, colleges weren’t knocking at Browning’s door. He had interest from Division I mid-majors High Point and Radford during his junior year but didn’t hear much from either school during his senior year.
Francis Marion coach Gary Edwards remembers Sean Sweeney, who was an assistant at FMU at the time, telling his boss about the Irmo point guard. Edwards watched Browning play and knew he wanted him for his program.
“I thought he was a heady player and had a feel for the game. He just knows how to play. We offered him right away,” Edwards said. “He brought all kinds of intangibles to the team. Had no idea he would score as much as he did. I knew he would be a heck of a player.”
Newberry and Francis Marion recruited him, but only FMU gave him a full scholarship. Still, Browning was a little hesitant to commit and wanted to see if a bigger school would offer at the last minute. In hindsight, Browning said that was a mistake.
“Playing Division II ball wasn’t the goal. I thought if I played Division II ball, I probably wouldn’t be playing after college. I wouldn’t be the famous guy, and people wouldn’t know how good I could play,” Browning said. “But coming here has changed my life. I’m going to graduate, didn’t think I would break all these records and played in March Madness, in the Division II tournament. That’s all I can ask for.”
Browning redshirted his freshman year, and he learned a lot from former Camden standout Evrik Gary, who is FMU’s second all-time leading scorer.
The following year, Browning, who Edwards calls a “throwback and an old soul,” earned Peach Belt Freshman of the Year honors and began his assault on the FMU record book.
“The things I’m going to remember about Detrek is his loyalty in a day and age where guys become good in college and become better than people thought. They are looking to transfer, especially guys who redshirted their freshman year,” Edwards said. “They take the graduate year and go to a Division I school, but Detrek never did that. Detrek was loyal to his team, coach and school. He just wanted to win and is very unselfish for a guy who scores as much as he does.”