The Indiana women’s basketball program did its homework on Kiandra Browne.
The Hoosiers were watching the 2021 6-foot-1 forward during tournaments last summer, during the 2019 Canadian national championships and throughout the 2019-20 high school basketball season.
Finally, one night Browne’s phone rang. Unknown number read the caller ID.
Reluctantly, Browne said, “Hello?”
On the other end was an enthusiastic Glenn Box, IU assistant coach.
“He said, ‘Hey, we are super pumped and excited to recruit you. I’m going to get you a phone call with the head coach,’” Browne said. “I was like, whoa, this is a lot. Usually, universities don’t get you with the head coach right away.
“They told me they didn’t reach out or offer before because they wanted to see what kind of player and person I was.”
So Browne spent the next couple of months returning the favor, doing her homework on Indiana, which formally offered on the second phone call. It was an offer that Browne officially accepted over the weekend, reclassifying to the class of 2020 in the process.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to any in-home or on-campus visits, but a plethora of Zoom meetings and phone calls gave Browne plenty of opportunities to get to know her suitor.
“Lots of Zoom calls,” she said. “A lot of the girls on the team reached out personally. We had a chance to talk one-on-one, and even though it’s been a different time, I really do feel the thing that was the difference was the people. I think I found some really inspirational and hard-working people at Indiana.”
One of those people was former Hoosier Brenna Wise, who spent an hour and a half on the phone with the future Hoosier one day.
“She was really great,” Browne said. “She told me, ‘Even if you don’t want to come to IU, I want to help you in any way I can.’ You don’t find people like that just anywhere.”
Now Browne is one of those people, having taken a somewhat unconventional path that will lead her to Bloomington in the next few weeks, becoming the first Canadian to play for IU since Sarah McKay graduated in 2007. She also adds to a growing international flavor for IU, which added Spain native Nicole Cardano-Hillary as a transfer and got a 2021 commitment from Australian Paige Price.
Born and raised in Montreal, Browne was always into sports, just not always into basketball.
“I played ringette until I was 12, which is an ice sport similar to hockey but the strategy is much like basketball,” she said. “It’s funny because they appear very different but when you break it down, the strategy as far as offense is concerned is similar to basketball.
“I also played a bit of soccer, I did some swimming and diving, and my sister plays water polo, so I’ve done that a little.”
But after wanting nothing to do with basketball for years, something — maybe genetics — finally clicked.
“Basketball stole my heart,” said Browne, who is also a big Serena Williams fan. “My mom played basketball, my grandmother and great grandmother played, so it’s kind of in the family.”
Browne’s basketball career quickly took off. In 2018, the 16-year-old made her debut for the Canadian national team at the U18 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City, averaging 8.8 minutes, 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game en route to the silver medal.
Last August, Browne led Quebec to the U17 national championship, earning MVP honors. It was a preview of the high school season that would follow.
School ends at grade 11 in Quebec, so Browne left E.S. Saint-Laurent in search of a chance to play in the United States for two years in preparation for college.
“I decided the best way for me to get exposure for colleges and play with girls I would be playing with and against at the college level would be to play in the States,” said Browne, who was ranked No. 75 in the class of 2021 by ESPN HoopGurlz.
She landed at Winston-Salem Christian in North Carolina, which offered visas to international students, playing for former Wake Forest standout Delaney Rudd.
“We’d played against Coach Delaney a lot, and he coaches hard and smart, so that was the kind of coach I wanted to play for,” Browne said.
She would go on to earn MVP honors as Winston-Salem won the Independent School National Championship, expanding herself and her game in the process.
“I feel like I was able to learn a lot more about different dynamics on different teams off the court,” Browne said. “The way you interact with teammates off the court has a huge impact on chemistry on the court. It allowed me to grow as an individual and really know this girl I need to talk to this way, not that way. This girl likes to be pushed, this girl needs to be shown instead of talked to.
“I grew off the court as well as on the court. Defensively, I learned the art of taking charges, and offensively stretched out my game more, knocked down some 3s, attacked off the bounce and didn’t just focus on the inside game, which I’m continually working on.”
Browne was still pointing toward the class of 2021 until the pandemic and did not make the decision to reclassify to 2020 until the last three weeks. It was, admittedly, driven by the circumstances.
“It was due to the fact I would not be covered by insurance to return to Winston-Salem due to COVID, and that was a risk I wasn’t willing to take,” she said. “I didn’t want to risk my health plus the spread of COVID, so being able to go to college where things are more controlled with NCAA regulations, I felt that was the safest decision and best decision for me.”
In a way, Browne will still be a part of IU’s 2021 recruiting class, as she plans to redshirt this year.
“By redshirting, I’ll able to gain experience on and off the court, get stronger and smarter as far as basketball is concerned,” Browne said. “I can get acclimated to college life, essentially. Hopefully, it will give me a lot of advantages.”
On the court, Browne sees herself as a power forward for the Hoosiers, a complementary piece to Big Ten All-Freshman Team member Mackenzie Holmes. Holmes and fellow rising sophomore Hannah Noveroske were among those speaking to Browne regularly.
“I see myself more of a four or a stretch four,” Browne said. “Can I play the five? Yes. Will I at the next level? Well, I’m 6-2 on a good day, so I have to accept these 6-6 girls don’t want this 6-2 girl hanging around. I’ve accepted that if I want to excel, I need to get more ball handling in, be quicker, get more shots up from outside and 3, and I hope that IU will help me with that.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on Mackenzie and Coach Rhet (Wierzba) and Coach Box have shown me a lot of her games. She’s a very good player, and I feel like I’ll learn a lot from her.”
Browne hopes to get to do that in person once some of the logistics in leaving Canada for Bloomington are worked out, but she’s confident in the homework that’s been done.
“The way IU so far has opened their arms and has welcomed me is amazing, and I haven’t even met them in person,” she said.