As the men’s basketball team’s three starting guards received praise after their performance in Temple’s 73-60 win against Maryland on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think that a fourth guard deserves recognition for being of the more important players on the team.
When I think of sophomore guard Aaron Brown, I think “versatility.” Brown can score in multiple ways on offense and is one of the team’s most consistent contributors on defense.
“[Brown] is as important as anybody who starts,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We need [him] to be the best that he can be. He’s a very important part of what we do.”
“My role is to make shots, make defensive plays and make stuff happen while I’m on the court,” Brown added.
Senior guard Juan Fernandez, redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore and junior guard Khalif Wyatt all start for Temple and average more than 30 minutes and 10 points per game. The trio has been praised for their scoring ability and high basketball IQ’s. Dunphy said after the Maryland game that the three are as good as any guards that he’s ever coached.
But Dunphy was also quick not to understate what Brown does for his team.
“[Brown’s] best attribute on offense is getting shots and making shots,” Dunphy said. “On defense, it’s about being in the right spots at the right time, and he’s getting better at that.”
As Temple’s sixth man, Brown has played in every game and can come off the bench and play multiple positions. Brown has filled in at guard and forward, but has been even more critical when Dunphy has been forced to run four-guard sets in the absence of injured graduate center Micheal Eric.
It would be an understatement to say that the Owls were an undersized group during the 13 games that Eric missed. Temple ran with 6-foot-9-inch redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee and 6-foot-6-inch junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson at forward, and the pair were often overmatched with bigger competition.
As Dunphy mixed and matched with lineups during that time span, it wasn’t uncommon to see four or even five guards on the court at a time, and Brown was always a critical part of playing small ball, especially on defense when he was matched up against forwards.
“I have to do some stuff I’m not used to, play the big man,” Brown said. “It’s going against guys who are bigger than me and having the will to get rebounds and make hustle plays.”
“We’ve been asking him to be the best defensive player that he can be, and he’s working towards that,” Dunphy added.
Brown’s averages 17.9 minutes and 7.8 points per game while maintaining a field goal percentage of .450, second to Wyatt among guards. Brown’s three-point percentage of .397 is third best on the team among those who have had at least 10 attempts.
Brown said he worked specifically on improving his three-point shot this summer, shooting the ball more than a thousand times a day.
“It was just repetition, shooting and shooting and shooting,” Brown said. “[Now the ball] is just falling down.”
“We need [Brown] to shoot threes, there’s no question about that,” Dunphy added. “He spaces the floor for us.”
While his scoring numbers aren’t off the charts, Brown makes the most of the playing time he’s given. Only Moore and Wyatt average more points per minutes played.
Brown praised the trio of starting guards for making him a better shooter.
“Playing with guys like that, you get open shots because the attention is focused on them,” Brown said. “They have the ball and they kick it to you wide open, and you just have to knock down shots.”
But we’ve also seen flashes of what Brown can do when he’s given more time on the floor.
Brown started the final nine games of last season, including contests in the Atlantic Ten Conference and NCAA tournaments. This year against Central Michigan, Brown scored a career-high 21 points in 22 minutes. He followed that performance up four days later with a 19-point game in 22 minutes against Toledo.
“You always want to be out there [more], but you can’t put your head down,” Brown said. “You just have to keep playing and think positive.”
“[Brown] knows his role,” Dunphy added. “When he’s making shots, he’s going to stay out there longer. When he’s making plays defensively, he’s going to stay out there longer.”
Both Moore and Wyatt won the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year award in their sophomore seasons before having breakout years in their junior campaigns, and I think we’re seeing the pattern repeating with Brown.
As the sixth man this year, Brown is one of the team’s greatest contributors. But with what he has shown in the limited time he’s been given, the future looks bright for the sophomore.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.