He heard the pop, felt the pop, and then his mind went blank.
Playing a simple pickup game with his teammates in late May, Josh Brown’s Achilles tendon gave out, and his senior season was suddenly in question.
“When it happened, everything went out my head,” Brown said. “I didn’t think about anything. I remember how it happened, when it happened, but I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking.”
The senior point guard underwent surgery on May 25. He couldn’t do much physical activity for about five months, but now he’s back on the court, undergoing rehabilitation and doing individual drills.
Coach Fran Dunphy said while Brown has looked good taking shots and performing other basketball activities, he’s “a long way” from determining his status for this season.
“The window is definitely not shut,” Brown said of a return to the team. “Like I said before, I’m working hard every day and trying to see what happens.”
Brown played in all 33 games last season, starting 32 of them. He averaged 8.3 points per game and 4.9 assists per game. The senior totaled 161 assists compared to 46 turnovers last season, a ratio that ranked No. 8 in Division I.
Brown impressed opponents with the maturity of his old-school game.
“He’s just a true leader,” East Carolina senior guard Caleb White said. “He never led them in scoring, probably never led them in any real statistical category, but you can tell he really makes that team go.”
If Brown can’t go this season, what will Temple miss?
“They definitely lose a lot of leadership on the court,” said Houston sophomore guard Galen Robinson, Jr. “But they have a great coach, so they should be able to adjust without him.”
Without Brown, Temple’s primary ball handler will be sophomore guard Shizz Alston, Jr. He played in 31 games last season, averaging two points and 10.1 minutes per game as a freshman. His role will be much more essential this season.
“I don’t want to be without him on the floor,” Dunphy said. “That’s where he is right now. I think he’s got to play each and every bounce for us.”
Even without the Brown injury, Alston knew his role would expand as one of the team’s only returning guards. He said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make is trying to fill Brown’s on-court leadership role.
“I prepared that way all year,” Alston said. “Not saying I was ready for him to get hurt, but I was ready to step into that position. I just thought I had to become more of a leader. Josh is a great leader. He’s been here four years, so in my second year I have to become a leader.”
Freshman guard Alani Moore will join Alston in an inexperienced backcourt. Moore was ranked the No. 140 recruit in last year’s class by Rivals.com.
After Brown went down, Dunphy had a number of conversations with Moore — the most he’s ever had with a freshman guard in his 27-year career.
“We’re really needing him to step up here,” Dunphy said of Moore. “He’s really been thrown into a situation that wasn’t my first choice but it’s what it is.”
Even though he’s not on the court all the time, Brown has been helping guide Alston and Moore as they learn how to run the team.
“Both of them kind of come over and ask me questions,” Brown said. “Right now, I’m here as a helper whenever they need me, but I’m just focusing on working hard, my physical therapy and I’m just trying to get back on the court and help them in that sense.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.