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Jan. 8, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — His players assembled Monday afternoon in one of the meeting rooms at John Paul Jones Arena, expecting to watch videotape in preparation for UVa’s game Wednesday night against Wake Forest. Coach Tony Bennett had another reason for calling his team together.

“I walked in and said, `You guys know I talk about servanthood and how important it is. Well, I get to reward one of our true servants,’ ” Bennett recalled Tuesday.

Then Bennett “dropped the bomb,” as senior point guard Doug Browman put it. Bennett announced to the team that Browman, a walk-on from Midlothian, would be put on scholarship for the spring semester.

Browman’s teammates broke out in cheers. He was stunned.

“The rest of the team was like, `Yeah, Doug!’ and he was kind of sitting there like, `Wow!’ ” Bennett said. “What a blessing.”

Browman said: “It just came out of the blue. I had no idea. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind. He just kind of surprised me with it.”

His parents, Doug Sr. and Barbara, were still at work when Browman got the news, so he didn’t call home until around 7 p.m. Monday, when he knew they’d be together.

“My mom started crying,” he said, “but they were really excited.”

This is the second time in his four seasons at UVa that Bennett has awarded a scholarship to a walk-on. The recipient in 2010-11 was forward Will Sherrill, a senior that year.

“That’s a great joy, to be able to reward one of your student-athletes,” Bennett said. “Our managers and our walk-ons, they’re such servants. We talk about that as an important principle in our program, but they truly are. They embody it with doing whatever’s necessary, paying their own way.

“With Doug, nothing was guaranteed to him when he came in. He had to come to walk-on tryouts. He made it.”

After spending his ninth-grade year at James River High in Chesterfield County, Browman transferred to Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md., a school with a nationally known hoops program. (Its other graduates include Justin Anderson, now a freshman swingman at UVa.)

Browman, a three-year letterman at Montrose Christian, could have had a larger role in another college program. But his sister, Andrea, is a 2006 alumna of UVa, and that’s the school he wanted to attend, even if he wasn’t on a basketball scholarship.

As a freshman in 2009-10, the 5-11 Browman earned a spot on Bennett’s team and appeared in four games. But he didn’t apply himself academically in his first year at UVa, and his coach found that unacceptable.

“So I said, `Until you get yourself back and do a better job in the classroom, you won’t be allowed to be part of the team,’ ” Bennett recalled.

Browman did not sulk. “He did a great job,” Bennett said. “He took care of business in the summer and the fall and we reinstated him” after the first semester in 2010-11.

His time away from the team, Browman said Tuesday, taught him to always “keep academics first, and it made me work harder, both on and off the court, improving my skills and also my academics.”

Browman didn’t appear in any games as a sophomore. In 2011-12, however, he played 35 minutes and totaled 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Statistics don’t reflect Browman’s value to Virginia (11-3, 1-0), which meets ACC rival Wake (7-6, 0-1) at 9 p.m. Wednesday at Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“He leads,” Bennett said. “He’ll stand down if he needs to and not take reps. He’ll play defense all practice, or he’ll come into some games and he’ll help us. He’s done that.”

Indeed, with senior Jontel Evans sidelined for nine games by a foot injury, Virginia has been thin at point guard this season, and Browman has played in nine games. His most memorable appearance came Dec. 30 against Wofford at JPJ.

Evans was unavailable that day, and Browman was the first point guard off the bench for the Wahoos. In a career-high 23 minutes, he had a career-best six assists and played exceptional defense against guard Karl Cochran, Wofford’s leading scorer, in UVa’s 74-39 romp.

“He took Cochran out of the game,” Wofford coach Mike Young said afterward.

Cochran missed 10 of 11 shots from the floor, including 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, and scored only five points.

“We really had a hard time getting Cochran into some things,” Young said. “Browman really managed the game from his spot. He has a great understanding of his role … Something tells me that Tony is going to find a place for someone like that.”

Browman, an economics major who’s on track to graduate in May, already had a important role on a team loaded with underclassmen. Now he has something else: a scholarship.

“That’s definitely the goal that every person works for: the opportunity to be a scholarship basketball player in the ACC,” Browman said. “To have that finally be achieved is definitely a blessing.”

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