Steven Brown is as unassuming as he is industrious.
He is his typical low-key self when a conversation turns to queries about his work on the farms of his grandmother and uncle along Highway PP south of Sparta.
"I'm your typical farm hand," he said.
Conversely, Brown is actually an atypical farm hand. In his spare time, he turns in his work gloves and boots to be part of a Sparta starting five that has captured the fancy of SWMO basketball fans as much as any group this winter.
The senior forward has been a three-year starter for the Trojans. He's had moments of glory this season, enjoying a 20-point effort against Mountain Grove at the Blue & Gold Tournament and hitting four 3-pointers in a win at Hollister.
Brown and Sparta (16-4) will host Mansfield (19-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the Sparta Tournament championship. School officials announced Friday the final round will mark the Trojans' long-awaited return to their home floor, after the tourney had been scheduled to be moved to Rogersville.
Whatever the locale, Brown most often toils away in obscurity. He receives little fanfare outside of adoration from his teammates and coaches.
"Everyone loves him on the team," junior center Jacob Lafferty said. "He does the dirty work. He hits the big 3, but doesn't take too many shots. He takes smart shots and locks down on defense."
"He's blue-collar," coach Deric Link said. "The only thing he knows is work and to work hard. You ask him to do something and he's going to do it the best he can."
Brown is hard at work on whatever farm he finds himself at many mornings several hours before his teammates and classmates wake up. If he's not bailing hay, he's working with animals or taking care of various and seemingly endless other chores.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's fun. I grew up into it," Brown said. "I'm the only boy of four kids in my family and my grandma has only two grandsons and I'm the oldest one. It's up to me.
"Last summer, I was milking cows while I was working on a dairy farm," he added. "I feed cows and take care of them. A lot of cows get sick whenever it gets really hot or cold. Right now, we're weaning (beef) calves so grandma can sell some of them."
When asked how long his typical work day is, Brown has an immediate answer.
"All day," he said.
Brown relates his work ethic is a direct reflection of his father, Michael.
"My Dad gets up at 2:30-300 every morning to get to work, so I guess I have it in my blood," he said. "I look up to my Dad. He's the hardest working guy I know."
That same sentiment is echoed by Brown's teammates toward him.
"He's always working," Lafferty said. "Every time he comes into class, he has dirt all over him."
Brown has proven himself capable on the hardwood, despite limitations. For him, basketball season doesn't extend a day before or after Sparta's practice and game schedules.
"To be honest, I really don't work on it," he said of his basketball game. "I kind of just show up to school and go to practice and work my tail off. I'm bailing hay in the summer, so I don't play in the summer."
Brown's mornings currently are split between the farm and Ozark Technical College's Richwood Valley Campus between Ozark and Nixa. He's taking automotive classes.
Brown's career choice may not include farming or automotive work. If things go as he plans, he'll be joining the workforce next fall about the time many other members of Sparta's graduating class of 2023 are taking midterms as college freshmen.
"I don't know if I will have a farm or not. I'm hoping I can go into welding after high school. I grew up doing that, too," he said. "SFI (Stainless Fabrication Inc.), on the north side of Springfield, has a 10-week program in which you're at the shop getting paid to go to school. When you graduate, you go straight into welding for them.”
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