Rateska Brown thinks she should start. Her coach thinks otherwise.
“I know it’s a role that she doesn’t like and she doesn’t want, but it’s the role that coach is putting out there for her,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “That’s the role I like for her to have.”
Even though she sees herself as a player with starting ability, in recent weeks, Brown has established herself as a reliable outside shooting option in her role as the Owls’ sixth man.
“I don’t think that it’s a big deal,” the junior guard said. “I just feel like I can help my team a lot more by starting because the way we start games sometimes, we don’t have enough energy. But I guess I’m like a secret weapon coming off the bench, because I come off and I give this spark.”
Brown’s emergence as Temple’s sixth man did not happen immediately. Coming into this season, Brown was Temple’s leading returning scorer, but she began the year serving a six-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
Once returned from her suspension, Brown was placed in a reserve role, playing as a backup and averaging just less than 19 minutes played for each of the next nine games. Though she received significant minutes following her suspension, prior to her return, Brown had low expectations for playing time.
“I just couldn’t expect much because I [had done] wrong,” Brown said. “When I got in trouble, it was on me. So, I couldn’t expect much. I couldn’t just want them to give me everything. I had to work for it.”
Brown’s return showed that the junior guard had some rust, as she averaged seven points on 33 percent shooting in her first nine-game stretch, but those games would serve as somewhat of a warm-up to her next 10-game span.
In the Owls’ last 10 games, Brown has made the most of her minutes as a backup guard, scoring double figures in eight games, and leading the Owls in scoring four times. In Temple’s last 10 matchups, the reserve guard has averaged 12.7 points and shot 45 percent from the floor.
“Being able to get points off your bench is very important, and for her to be able to come in and knock down shots for us and give us new life is very important for our team,” Cardoza said.
Particularly, Brown has been the Owls’ most reliable long-range shooter in the last few weeks. She has shot 29 of 68 from behind the arc in the last 10 games, including a couple of occasions when Brown made five three-point baskets.
“My mindset is to come in and make every second count,” Brown said. “As soon as I hit the floor, I want to do something good, whether it’s a defensive stop, or it’s a steal, or even a block, or just hit a quick three. I just want to make a difference.”
Brown’s recent play has given Temple an offensive boost, and to Cardoza’s surprise, teams have yet to account for the hot shooter.
“It’s crazy because people still don’t guard her,” Cardoza said. “I think our guys are doing a really good job of finding her. When you look at our team, she’s going to get shots. Because of the guys we have out on the floor, she’s going to get wide open shots, because those other guys sometimes demand help. It’s going to be key for her to knock down shots [moving forward].”
To Brown’s displeasure, regardless of how well the junior shooter may play, Cardoza has made it clear that she is comfortable with Brown’s role on the team.
“I just feel like you want someone who can come off the bench and score for you in bunches,” Cardoza said. “With the other guys that do start, I like the combination that we have.”
Regardless of where her playing time comes from, Brown said she hopes that her offensive efficiency will continue and her play can help her team finish the season with victories.
“I just want to help my team, at the end of the day,” Brown said. “If [Cardoza is] going to make me play the role, I’m going to play the role she makes me. As long as we win, that’s all that matters. I just want to win.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BErick1123.