For Temple's Josh Brown, a remarkable comeback

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Playing in his first game since tearing an Achilles tendon in the offseason, Temple senior point guard Josh Brown (left) defends St. Joseph's Charlie Brown on Wednesday night, Nov. 30, 2016.

Just protocol, Temple point guard Josh Brown said afterward, asked about the ice wrapped around his left Achilles - after Brown's season debut coming off May surgery on that Achilles tendon. The ice didn't mean pain, the Owls senior was saying, or the slightest hint of surrender.

There's no protocol, in fact, for any of this. The research Temple medical folks had done saw a year's recovery, which meant a redshirt year for Brown. He heard the words, kept ignoring them. Still ignores them.

"It's sort of remarkable, to be honest with you," said Owls coach Fran Dunphy. "I don't know that we're totally out of the woods yet. He still needs to play a little bit. I was hoping for five minutes in the first half, five minutes in the second half."

Brown played 14 minutes, seven in each. Three shots, made two. Two rebounds, one assist, and a block with the score tied midway through the second half, leading to a Shizz Alston jumper at the other end. It finished up 78-72 for visiting Temple in a terrific Big Five nail-biter with St. Joseph's. When there was a chance at the end to get Brown on for defense, Dunphy did it.

"From day one, he's had this attitude that he's going to play," Dunphy said. "Just about every piece of research we've done would suggest this is a year in the making. Is he 100 percent? I don't think that he is. Is he capable of helping us and playing? Yes, he is. I still think we need some thinking to do. I want him to really be sure of what he's going to do."

Basically, Brown could still play now for the rest of December and continue to have a medical redshirt option. That's just never been his mind-set.

Coming into the season, not having Brown seemed to point to dire consequences. Brown had been way up the list of reasons Temple had made the NCAA tournament. Counting on a freshman guard and a sophomore combo guard to handle things? Nobody had great expectations. But Alston in particular has steadied the ship. He had five assists Wednesday, and his only turnover came with 36 seconds left and the game over. And newcomer Alani Moore has shown the poise of a 30-year-old, knocking down big free throws. It's added up to 5-2 so far.

So now Brown adds to this equation instead of saving it. Never a bad thing. You just can't have too many ball handlers. And at full speed he's a defensive stopper.

So just another game? "Yeah, you could say that," Brown said with a smile. "I felt good out there."

Brown said his teammates kept him on an even keel, keeping his jitters down, but everyone in the Temple camp said Brown was excited about this, visibly so. Brown talked to Obi Enechionyia beforehand about his first shot. When it fell, just a minute after Brown got out there, it was a lift for all of them, Enechionyia said.

"A sigh of relief," Brown said of seeing that first one fall.

At the news conference, it took about 21/2 minutes before anyone brought up Enechionyia, who had 26 points. Brown was asked about the guy sitting next to him.

"He's a bad boy right there," Brown said.

"I've said it before. It's a different feeling on the court," Enechionyia said about having Brown back out there even for 14 minutes. "A security on both sides of the ball."

"We're just different with him handling the ball," Dunphy said. "He made a terrific call in the second half, just settled us terrifically."

What kind of call?

"We run a set called Texas that I hadn't thought about, but he did," Dunphy said. "He's thinking all the time. One of the things you miss when you don't have him, let's say late in the game, the four-minute timeout or whatever, and you've got the ball. You can say to Josh, 'What do you want to run?' He might say, 'Texas or UConn,' or whatever we run. And you believe in it, because that's the kind of sense and feel for the game he has."

"I brought a lot of energy, a lot of composure to the team," Brown said, allowing that his conditioning was all right, that he needs to get in better game shape, "but that takes time. I'm going to get there."

His whole mantra after the surgery: Can't get down. Have to get back for this team, for leadership. Especially for this team, he said. A lot of young guys, talented guys. "Be aggressive at all times," Brown said he tells the new ones.

In the meantime, they're trying to tell him to take it slow. It's a hard deal.

Even the opposing coach, Phil Martelli, volunteered how absolutely delighted he was to see Brown out there, adding: What better way than in a Philadelphia game?

"These kids get 120 opportunities," the St. Joe's coach pointed out.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus