It’s never easy to continue success during a time of change.
When Will Cummings completed his four years at Temple University, he made a name for himself as the heart and soul of the Owls’ offense. A veteran point guard on the team, Cummings was able to take on any matchup put in front of him, and although his defense was feisty and strong, it was his ability to drive into the lane and create shots for his team that made him one of the best point guards in the nation at the collegiate level.
This season however, the Owls are unable to rely on the abilities of Cummings because, well, he is no longer on the team. With Cummings now a graduate pursuing a career in the NBA’s development league, the Owls began the season with a question on the minds of many: who would be their point guard that could run the offense just as smoothly as Cummings?
Temple had two true freshman guards coming into this season in Trey Lowe and Levan Alston Jr,. Although these players were known for their abilities to score and dish in high school, it was unknown how quickly the two would translate their games to the collegiate level. With that being said, one particular player on the minds of Owl fans and coaches alike that could possibly fill the large void that Cummings left behind was Josh Brown.
This is the third year that Brown has been on the team, but his career averages have been pedestrian at best. As a sophomore last season, Brown averaged below 22-minutes a game and produced just 6.3 points and 1.5 assists each contest. Granted, Brown was still a young player and was shadowed over by the talented season that Cummings had, but the under two assists per game were alarming. If the numbers said anything about Brown’s development, it was that he needed to learn how to play the point guard position in a true manner by creating more opportunities for his teammates. Though Brown’s sophomore statistics told one story, a story that foreshadowed a season of learning and transition to the point guard position, his play through the first eight games of the season have told a different story.
So far this season, Brown is averaging five assists per game. Although it is a good number but not a great number for point guards, the plus-3.5 improvement is what is exciting about the stat. If you analyze Brown’s performance to start this season even further, the numbers become even more impressive. In his freshman season, Brown dished out a total of 51 assists in 31 games played and in his second year, Brown upped that total to 57 assists in 37 games played. This year, through eight games played, Brown already has 40 total assists, just 11 shy of his freshman total and 17 away from his sophomore amount. It was not until conference play had started and 23 games had passed that Brown totaled 40 assists last season. The date that marked his 40th assist? February 4th, 2015, in USF victory against Cincinnati. This season, Brown recorded his 40th assist on December 19th, 2015 in a Big 5 victory against the Penn Quakers. It is amazing to realize that Brown was able to reach 40-plus assists this season in the same year that he did it last season (2015).
If you take into consideration how quickly Brown was handed the keys to bring the ball up the court, he has certainly taken the task to heart with little to no error. When asked about Brown’s progression as a point guard earlier this season, head coach Fran Dunphy praised his junior’s efficiency. “I certainly like his assist-to-turnover numbers, those are good,” Dunphy said. “He’s still learning that position. The reality is he’s still learning that position and trying to get better at decision making.”
Despite all of this still being a learning process for Brown, he has ran the Owl offense without turning the ball over much. Through eight games, Brown has averaged fewer than two turnovers a game, and in three of those games, he didn't turned over the ball at all. No game has presented Brown’s rapid development into becoming a true point guard more than Temple’s first Big 5 game this season against Penn.
The Owls were able to hold off the Quakers with a win at the Palestra, 77-73, and Josh Brown was a huge reason for the victory.
Through 38 minutes, Brown was able to feed his teammates several times, dishing out a total of nine assists and even though Brown had the ball in his hands for a large portion of the game, he turned over the ball just one time. To go along with the efficient passing and ball handling, Brown was also able to drop 10 points.
After the victory, senior leader, Quenton DeCosey, praised Brown for his productive play. “He did a great job getting everybody involved on our team,” DeCosey said. “And with just one turnover…we’re going to need him to do that throughout the rest of the season.”
Head coach Fran Dunphy spoke on Brown after the game as well, with some words that resembled statements he would make after a performance of Will Cummings. “If his numbers could be like this every night — 10 points and obviously those four foul shots down the stretch were big, six rebounds, nine assists, one turnover — that’s a pretty good performance,” Dunphy said. “I think he defended better tonight too.”
With impressive improvement that is visible to both his teammates and coaches, expect more appreciation for Josh Brown’s play as he continues to blossom into a true playmaker.
Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
-Temple loses to Penn State in the first round of the NIT tournament