Turn on any Vanderbilt Basketball game right now, and you won’t have to wait three minutes to discover the biggest star on the floor. No matter how the game is progressing, it won’t be long until the broadcast mentions either Scottie Pippen Jr. or his NBA legend father. It understandably irks opposing fans, who just want to watch the game instead of hearing yet another story about SPJ or see another shot of his father supporting on the sideline. Personally, I love the spotlight for Vandy’s program, which hasn’t had a reason in years to receive any kind of national attention.
And while SPJ puts this otherwise mediocre team on the map and gives the Commodore basketball team a competitive edge they haven’t had in years, I want to deviate our attention today just for a few minutes to appreciate another player whose name boasts a three-letter acronym: QMB, or Quentin Millora-Brown. While Scottie brings the spark and playmaking ability that you’ll see in highlight reels, QMB embodies the work, sacrifice, and camaraderie that will ultimately take Jerry Stackhouse’s program to the level we all hope it will reach.
Millora-Brown transferred to Vanderbilt in 2019 after just one season at Rice. The son of a professional fencer, the Arlington, VA native actually took up this sport alongside basketball for the first part of his athletic career. Realizing that his tall frame much better suited shooting jumpers than it did swinging sabers, Millora Brown hung up the sword to focus on basketball beginning in junior high. He’d eventually be named POY for his high school division, which gave him enough attention from scouts to land him an offer from Rice following his senior year.
And while he did experience success in his first year with Rice, leading the team in blocks, QMB cited overall fit and academics as reasons why he chose to transfer to Stackhouse’s program a few years ago. Back in 2019, NCAA transfer rules still required that Millora-Brown sit out an entire season before beginning his Vanderbilt career in 2020-2021. This first year of eligibility presented an uphill battle for the big man, whose long wait was rewarded by playing in front of zero fans and whose production was hurt by a tough battle with Covid-19.
All the sudden, QMB’s junior season was over. The team had gone just 9-16 overall, and Millora-Brown was looking back on a strange season where he’d averaged just 13 minutes and 3 points per game. He had an almost completed Vanderbilt mechanical engineering degree to show for for it, but the student athlete had hoped for more on court success when he made the move to Nashville two years prior.
Just as Millora-Brown began to set his sights on a redemptive senior season, the news dropped that April that Vanderbilt had landed a stud transfer in Minnesota’s Liam Robbins. Commodore fans rejoiced that the 7 footer, who averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds for the Gophers, would fill a void in the post for the guard-heavy team. With another six months until the 2021-2022 season started, Millora-Brown’s role had suddenly shifted from the starting big man to at best a rotation player who would relieve the transfer when necessary.
In the current state of college basketball, most players would react to this news the same way that we’ve seen many others do over the past few years: just transfer. Surely there would be another school out there that needed a veteran big man to fill out their roster. Then, Millora-Brown could finish out his eligibility seeing the playing time and recognition he had long waited for. And while QMB would have been justified in taking his talents elsewhere after the apparent upgrade at the 5 spot Stackhouse made, he decided to take the road less traveled in today’s landscape and stay put.
What’s more is that QMB responded to this latest obstacle not with apathy, but with newfound motivation. Coach Stackhouse praised Millora-Brown for continuing his steady work ethic and taking on whatever role would be necessary in the upcoming season. Millora-Brown spent more time watching film to make himself a smarter player. He worked specifically with the guards coaches to work on the finesse that some parts of his game lacked. While most would have turned bitter in response to your coaches virtually replacing you, QMB just got ready.
Leading up to the 2021-2022 season, the program finally had some buzz and reasons for optimism. They returned a few starters including the preseason SEC Player of the year and brought in a feature big man in Robbins that could help Vandy battle down low. None of the press or hype, however, mentioned a word of what Millora Brown would provide to the team.
Then, as if by script, news came weeks before the Commodores’ first game that their missing piece would be out indefinitely due to a stress reaction. The injury bug that sidelined Darius Garland and Aaron Nesmith in prior seasons had once again struck down a starting player for Vanderbilt, and fans started to once again write the season off entirely. Many viewed the season as what the team could hold together until Robbins came back.
When the first game finally came around in early November, the player who many had forgotten about took the floor as a starter against Alabama State. In a 91-72 opening win, Millora-Brown played 20 minutes and had just 2 points on 1-1 shooting, but quietly lead the team that day with 5 assists. In the next game where headlines would praise Pippen Jr’s 30 point performance, QMB led the team in both rebounds and assists as the commodores started 2-0. This discrete, yet effective play from Millora-Brown has persisted throughout the entire season. Just yesterday against UGA, he broke double digit figures for the 2nd time this year on 5-5 shooting while adding six rebounds and three blocks in Vandy’s 2nd conference win.
Neither Millora-Brown’s stature nor his skill set will ever be enough to get him the look of pro scouts or instill much fear in opposing teams. Apparently realizing these limitations, though, QMB took his offseason focus and effort to factors within his control: making himself a smarter player. All of the work he put in with the team’s guards have propelled his free throw shooting rate to almost double what it was last season. And that time he spent in the film room? Millora-Brown virtually never turns the ball over (0.6 per game) despite playing twice as many minutes as he did last year. Before the Kentucky game, the team’s overall point differential was positive with QMB on the floor and negative with him off it.
In yet another rebuilding season for our basketball team, many fans, myself included, are losing patience and interest in watching the latest edition of limited talent that tries hard but still struggles to win games. And while this team has shown flashes of excellence that we haven’t seen in years, it’s relatively evident that in an extremely deep SEC, we won’t see the 2021-2022 campaign reach the top of the standings or make any seismic splashes come tournament time.
But if you’re looking for a reason to care, cheer, or even watch the for the rest of the year, consider the story of Quentin Millora-Brown. Consider that instead of running away to another program in search of more playing time, QMB ran head first at his own weaknesses so that his team would be in a better position to win the next season.
Vanderbilt Basketball has struggled as of late to string together strong recruiting classes or retain players before they either transfer or go pro. As such, we’ve all seen the program fail to return to its winning ways as so many external factors continually work against the team. Perhaps Millora-Brown can serve as a microcosm of what could contribute to some kind of consistency and success. Maybe if, like QMB, Stackhouse and the team focused on controlling what’s in front of them rather than waiting for that next recruit to commit or player to return from injury, all of the surrounding factors would subside to be as significant as they have been.
Often times, building something worthwhile requires trusting yourself and leaning into the unknowns that come your way. For Vanderbilt Basketball, everyone knows that stars like Scottie Pippen Jr. will score their points and get their highlights on most nights. We all welcome that. However, when it comes to the resolve, sacrifice, and commitment that will ultimately take Vanderbilt Basketball to its previous heights, the ABCs of this rebuild begin with QMB.