Josh Brown (above) could be the next Temple guard to break out as a junior. (Photo: Tug Haines/CoBL)
Max Buchdahl (@max_buchdahl)
Temple’s basketball program has seen a number of extremely successful lead guards in the last few years under head coach Fran Dunphy.
From Juan Fernandez to Khalif Wyatt, and most recently to Will Cummings, the position has been a source of consistent productivity and leadership.
With Cummings’ graduation after two years in that role, that spotlight now shifts to junior guard Josh Brown, who is expected to take over at point guard this season for the Owls.
Brown played in all 37 of Temple’s games last season, becoming a key player off the bench for a team that just nearly missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid. He was the leading scorer off the bench, averaging 6.3 points per game, and led the entire team in free throw shooting at 86.3 percent.
The biggest moment of his season came in a crucial conference matchup on the road against Memphis, when he hit a buzzer-beater off of the backboard to give Temple a 61-60 win. Brown then went on to have four double-digit point games during the remainder of the season, including two 11-point games during the NIT.
But now, without the veteran mentorship of Cummings, it is up to Brown’s leadership skills to help lift the Temple Owls out of their two-year tournament drought, the longest of the Dunphy era.
In his freshman year, Brown averaged about a turnover per game, but cut that down to less than one a game last year. That improved ball-handling, combined with his prowess at perimeter defense, has raised the expectations surrounding him coming into a vital junior season.
Brown credits Cummings with helping him mature as a guard and preparing him for these next two seasons.
“He taught me a lot while I was on the floor, pointing out things I should see and showing me things I should be doing while playing,” Brown said.
No matter his performance once the season gets underway, there is no question from anyone in the Temple program about how hard Brown has worked to improve his game.
“He’s our hardest worker,” Dunphy said. “Now he just needs to go play the best basketball he can.”
Brown is motivated by the pressures that come with being a point guard for the Temple Owls, and watched film of Fernandez, Wyatt, and Cummings this offseason to prepare for his new role.
He also spent part of the offseason at home training with teammate and fellow New Jersey native Quenton DeCosey, a senior wing. DeCosey considers it his responsibility to pick up where Cummings left off and help guide Brown in this transitional phase.
“I have just been trying to prepare him to take on that leading point guard spot, being that Will is not here,” DeCosey said.
DeCosey is one of four seniors on the Owls roster for this season, but it is still clear that Brown, a junior, has stuck out as a leader.
Senior forward Jaylen Bond, one of the biggest contributors to last year’s team, sees Brown rising to the challenge.
“[He] comes in every day and gives us his best every day of practice. He is going to be one of the leaders on this team so we are going to need him to play a big part,” Bond said.
Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia also sees the improvements that Brown has made, and recognizes his ability to lead the Owls back to March Madness.
“I think he’s ready to be the main guy, the leader of the team. You can see in his demeanor and his confidence on the court. You can see he’s ready to step up,” Enechionyia said.
Despite this being his first year as a leader, Brown is already looking after the future of Owls, and is excited about the prospect of mentoring freshman guard Levan Alston, similarly to how Cummings mentored Brown.
“I try to teach and mold [Alston],” he said. “Every now and then, while we’re competing in practice, I’ll pull him to the side and tell him something [Cummings] told me or something that I’ve learned in my two years here.”
With just under a month until the Owls tip-off the season against North Carolina, a number of questions still remain regarding the starting lineup and just how big of a difference there will be in Josh Brown’s game.
But given the confidence his team has in him, and the mentorship of former team captain Cummings, everything is in place for Brown to step up and lead the Owls back to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s now time for Brown to write his own name into the lineage of program-defining Temple guards.