Before the start of the National Anthem, Josh Brown takes a moment to say a prayer.
Prior to the lights dimming and the beginning of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Brown bows his head and thinks of his mother, Kimberly, who died when Josh was one year old.
He repeats the routine when he steps to the free-throw line, with the intention of remembering the mother he never got to know.
“Once I got the opportunity to go to college and play basketball and Temple was one of the schools, I had that in my mind I was coming in memory of her,” Brown said of his mother, who went to Temple. “To walk in her footsteps. If I could do that, I know she’d be watching over me.”
The junior guard took over the Owls’ point-guard duties after Will Cummings graduated last spring.
In his third year with the Owls, Brown has started all 24 of his team’s games, averaging 8.2 points and 4.7 assists per game.
“He’s a throwback point guard,” assistant coach Aaron McKie said. “He’s a pass-first guy. We are working on him trying to run the team. … He’s the quarterback.”
Brown began playing organized basketball at 12 years old, but the Newark, New Jersey native was around the game since he was five. He would run around his neighborhood to friends’ backyard basketball courts and to the local park to play a game.
After regular trips to the Chris Gatling Recreation Center in Irvington, New Jersey, one of Brown’s childhood friends invited him to practice with the Shooting Stars Amateur Athletic Union basketball program when he was 13 years old.
“That is when I got into organized basketball,” Brown said. “I took off from there.”
Heading into his eighth-grade year, Brown attended Union Township Middle School in Hampton, New Jersey, where he soon drew interest from local high schools and fans, who came out to watch the guard play.
“I was playing on the middle school team,” Brown said. “I remember going to the games, and guys would be lining up to watch me play because I could dunk. They treated me like a superstar, and I kind of saw I could do something with this game from there on.”
Brown then enrolled at Morristown-Beard School, a local private school in Morristown, New Jersey, for his freshman year of high school.
After one year at Morristown-Beard, Brown did not return and turned down two other high schools to enroll at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Under Bob Hurley’s coaching, Brown won two New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and three North Jersey, Non-Public B Championships.
“He was a terrific competitor,” Temple’s coach Fran Dunphy said. “He knew what he was doing out on the court at all times. He was getting better as a basketball player. He played for as fine of a basketball coach in all the country and everything fit.”
Brown committed to Temple in November 2011, during his junior year under Hurley, but reopened his commitment in June 2012 after a successful third season at St. Anthony’s and a summer basketball season where he was named MVP at the Hoop Group’s Pitt Jam Fest in April and the Rumble in the Bronx in June 2012.
Brown recommited to Temple in August 2012, passing on interest from seven schools including Rhode Island University, where Hurley’s son Dan coached.
“You always get buyer’s remorse when you are a college student-athlete,” Dunphy said. “He committed relatively early and some of his buddies did not. And they were getting more attention at that particular time. I’m sure that had something to do with it.”
McKie, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, returned to coach at his alma mater in August 2014. Since arriving, the former guard has helped Brown understand the importance of taking care of the ball.
The Owls have turned the ball over 222 times this season, which ranks No. 1 in Division I in fewest turnovers.
“It has to be a pecking order,” McKie said. “He was to be a guy to put people in position. It’s like being a father in a household. If you are letting your kids run around and do whatever it is they want, then obviously there is going to be a significant amount of dysfunction.”
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.