Brian Fobbs always believed that he could play basketball at the Division I level, and his smooth transition from Genesee Community College in upstate New York to Towson this winter supported that conviction.
But even after averaging 14.7 points in his first nine starts, the junior guard needed a career-high 32 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 10.4 seconds left in an 80-76 double-overtime win against UMBC on Dec. 11, to truly feel assured of his place with the Tigers.
“That was the game where I was just like, ‘Wow, I can do this,’ ” the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Fobbs said Tuesday. “That was a big-time shot for me and the team, and my teammates rallied with me. They were so happy for me, and that’s what made me get going and have confidence in myself.”
Fobbs, 20, has turned that faith into results. He leads the Tigers (5-13, 1-4 Colonial Athletic Association) into Thursday’s game at conference foe Drexel (8-11, 2-4) at 7 p.m. as their top player in scoring (15.8 points per game) and minutes played (30.3) and second-leading producer in rebounds (5.6), free-throw percentage (.842) and steals (0.7).
Towson coach Pat Skerry said Fobbs is a larger, more athletic version of guard Zane Martin, another left-handed shooter who transferred to New Mexico in July.
“Brian’s got a chance to be as good as we’ve had on the perimeter,” Skerry said. “I mean, heck, right now, his shooting percentages are pretty good, his efficiency is good right now, and he rebounds the ball well for a guard. He’s definitely right now the best rebounding guard we’ve had since I’ve been here. I think he’s as good a scorer on the perimeter that we’ve had.”
Fobbs’ shooting touch was not nearly as proficient in his final two years at Bishop Kearney High School in Rochester, N.Y., where he averaged 8.2 points and 1.0 rebounds in 40 games. Overlooked by Division I programs, he elected to play two seasons at Genesee, where he scored 1,306 points, the fourth-highest total in school history, and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association first-team All-American after a 2017-18 campaign in which he led the Region III in scoring (26.4) and rebounding (12.7).
“It’s definitely a motivation because at that age, 17 or 18 in your senior year of high school, you expect to get recruited, and you want to get recruited and play at this level,” Fobbs said. “So just knowing that you couldn’t do that from the start and you had to go to GCC, it was kind of a motivation. I just stayed focused, and my mom and my family were behind me and helping me push through. So it’s a confidence thing, and it’s about being able to stay focused.”
Fobbs popped up on Skerry’s radar after he perused social media and recruiting websites and saw that Robert Morris had made him an offer. Skerry dispatched associate head coach Kevin Clark to scout Fobbs, and Clark informed Skerry that Fobbs was playing center because “the guys he’s playing against are like your height.”
After last season ended, Skerry traveled to New York to watch Fobbs play March 10 and had Fobbs and his mother Monica visit the campus March 12. The Tigers signed him the next day.
“He’s a great kid,” Skerry said. “He’s a gym rat. He has a lot of physical tools, and he’s good. He’s a better athlete than we thought. He’s a better ball handler than we thought.”
Fobbs has been as advertised. He has started all 18 games this winter and has scored in double digits in 15 of them.
“I knew from the beginning that he would bring what he’s bringing because Coach was telling us about him since the summer,” said redshirt junior forward Dennis Tunstall, who leads Towson in rebounding (7.8). “Brian has brought a lot to the team. He’s brought a lot of scoring and defense and a lot of talent.”
As prolific as Fobbs has been, Skerry said the potential to reach greater heights is there.
“I’m on him because I think he’s got a chance to take another step,” he said. “He’s having a good year, there’s no question about it. He’s a good player. I think now my kind of focus is, how do we get him to improve? I’ve talked to him about being the best guy at practice, and that’s not to say that he doesn’t practice well, but I think he can be more dominant. He’s got to take care of the ball better. It’s always a fine line with scorers with shot selection.
“I think if he does that, then all of a sudden, we have a first-team All-League kid, and that’s really what you need to get to where you want to get to.”
Fobbs smiled when informed of Skerry’s prodding.
“He just expects a lot out of me, and that just makes me push harder because when you have a coach that is just pushing you to do that, that makes you want to go harder and do more,” he said. “If you have a coach that is just OK with you and says, ‘OK, I’m fine with that,’ you’re not going to be any better. That’s what I like about Coach Skerry. He’s on me 24-7. No matter what I do, he’s on me. So I have to keep getting better, and that’s what I like about him.”
Fobbs’ personal success has been overshadowed by the Tigers’ troubles, which have dropped them to ninth in the 10-team CAA. But he insisted that his confidence in his teammates and coaches is unwavering.
“It’s definitely been hard to juggle, but I believe in this team, and the coaching staff believes in this team,” he said. “We just have to put it together, and it’s not over yet. We have 13 conference games left. So we just have to make a run for it and stick together because it is going to be hard. And as you can see, it has been a long season for us, but it’s not the end of the world, and we can still make a run for this thing.”
Get to know Brian Fobbs
Brian Fobbs, a junior guard, leads the Towson men’s basketball team in scoring this season and ranks second in rebounds and steals. Here is a glimpse of the 20-year-old who has sparked the Tigers in only his first season with the program since transferring from Genesee Community College in upstate New York.
Height: 6 feet 4
Weight: 215 pounds
Jersey No.: 23
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Family: Parents Joseph and Monica Fobbs; Sister Briana
Athletic role model: LeBron James
Musical artists currently listening to: Drake, Future
Best recent movie he has watched: Aquaman
Favorite meal: Chicken
Favorite actor: Chris Rock