Josh Brown (above) played five games last season after trying to come back too soon from an Achilles injury. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Josh Brown knows he came back too soon.
Temple’s starting point guard tore his Achilles tendon last May, undergoing surgery almost immediately for an injury that can take upwards of a year to recover from. Yet by October he was back in practice, and on Nov. 30 -- six months after surgery -- he made his season debut against St. Joe’s.
Five games later, Brown was back on the bench, in street clothes. He didn’t play again for the rest of the season.
“I was just rushing everything,” he said last week at the Under Armour All-America camp. “I kind of overcompensated on other parts of my body by rushing my Achilles injury and it messed me up, my body never felt the same and I knew I needed that rest.”
Brown admitted his decision to attempt to play was helped along in part by the fact the Owls picked up wins over ranked Florida State and West Virginia to capture the NIT Season Tip-Off crown.
Suddenly, the season looked like it had promise, despite Temple dropping two of its first three games, to New Hampshire and UMass. Brown knew he wasn’t fully healthy, but he had to get back out there.
“I’m young and I want to play,” he said. “I’m a competitor, and being a senior on the team, one of the leaders last year, I was just trying to do anything to help my team win.”
But after coming off the bench against St. Joe’s, Penn and George Washington and then starting against DePaul and Villanova, Brown couldn’t do it any longer.
The St. Anthony (N.J.) product, who prided himself on his defensive abilities, shut it down and elected to take a medical redshirt.
Temple finished the season 16-15, including a 7-11 conference mark, and was eliminated in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
“I didn’t touch a basketball for a couple months,” Brown said.
He was handling one last Wednesday night at Jefferson University, as the various college student-athletes who work the high school portion of the camp got to scrimmage in front of over two dozen assembled NBA scouts; that was the first of several such workouts/scrimmages to occur over the course of the camp’s three days.
Other participants included Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, South Carolina’s Chris Silva, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington and more.
Brown had played in a similar event at the Gallagher Athletic Center before: the Reebok Breakout Classic, which had been held in the same gym in 2012, when he was between his junior and senior years in high school.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s the first impression, so I’m just going to go out there and show that I’m working hard, I’m healthy, I’m feeling good and I’m able to play.
“I don’t have any pressure to show, because I already know that it feels good,” he added. “Just up to me to play and be loose.”
Now healthy, Brown -- who graduated with his degree in criminal justice and is starting his masters in adult organizational development -- is likely to slide back into the starting role he had during his junior year in 2015-16, when he averaged 8.3 ppg and 4.8 rpg, finishing the season 10th in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.5:1.
But there’s a crowd in the backcourt now, as a trio of guards got quite a bit of experience with Brown sidelined last season. Junior Shizz Alston Jr. earned the Big 5 Most Improved Player award, averaging 13.9 ppg while shooting an AAC-best 86.8 percent from the foul line, with a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1) of his own.
On top of that are the sophomores, Quinton Rose (9.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Alani Moore II (6.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), both of whom can play with the ball in their hands.
Add in senior forward Obi Enechionyia (13.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and a talented four-man freshman class, and the Owls have the pieces to make a run at head coach Fran Dunphy’s eighth NCAA tournament appearance in his now 12th season on North Broad.
“They have the experience now and they’re confident, some of these guys’ confidence is through the roof, which is great for us and we need that,” Brown said. “I see a lot of great things happening for the team this year; we’re working hard, just can’t wait to compete and show it.”