In mid-October of last year, a Hawk went into practice like he had gone into practice the entire summer, the entire preseason. But, as is sometimes the case when pushing a body to the limit for Division I competition, an injury separated that practice from all of the others. That Hawk would suffer a fracture in his left wrist that would go on to sideline him for the entire 2017-18 campaign.
This was following a 2016-17 season in which he averaged just shy of 13 points per game and led the Hawks in three-point field goals (71) as a freshman.
So it should come as no surprise that there’s a buzz populating over the return of the six-foot-seven forward out of West Philly, the one with the infectious smile and charismatic demeanor who has adults and children alike wearing yellow shirts with black zig-zags across the bottom.
There’s a buzz. And there should be.
Charlie Brown, Jr. is back.
“I don't even think words can explain the excitement,” said Brown, Jr., of his anticipated return to the court. “I've been looking forward to this first game back since the day I got injured. I'm extremely excited. We all are. The program, everybody on campus…it’s amazing.”
Being stripped of the opportunity to play the game he loves for an entire season was, understandably, tough for the 2016-17 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team selection. The moment his doctor cleared him to play was just the opposite.
“I yelled when I found out,” he laughed. “I was walking out of the entrance of the hospital with my dad and I yelled.”
Brown, Jr. could have sulked last season away. He could have been selfishly disengaged, on the sidelines physically while mentally checked out. But that’s just not in his character, and a big part of his attitude toward the situation was molded by the people with whom he surrounded himself during one of the toughest times in his basketball career.
He credits his parents, coaching staff, and teammates for keeping him upbeat and focused on getting better each day during a time where he felt, more often than not, drained.
“They’d do simple things, like shoot me a text or give me positive words and impressions that lifted my spirits up,” said Brown, Jr.
He took those texts, words, and impressions and the optimistic vibes they brought to produce something positive out of a season in which he couldn’t contribute on the court. He became an unofficial extension of the coaching staff and did some “Sideline Watching,” as he called it.
And in rising above the negative that was his individual situation and taking on this new role for the betterment of the group, Brown, Jr. found another way to help his team succeed.
“From being the eye on the bench and being the different perspective that they needed from me being on the bench, I definitely learned a different part of the game that I’d never experienced before,” said Brown, Jr. “I’d tell them mental things that they didn’t see on the floor but I did, so at the beginning of games, during timeouts, and at the end of games, I’d just keep those things in their minds.”
After going .500 with a 16-16 overall record and a 10-8 A-10 record alongside a trip to the A-10 semifinals last year, the Hawks return 10 players, including redshirt junior guard and A-10 Preseason All-Conference Third Team pick Lamarr Kimble, who missed all but one game last season alongside Brown, Jr.
Saint Joseph’s welcomes four additions to the 2018-19 roster, but just one freshman in Jared Bynum, who Brown, Jr. specifically noted as an “integral piece to the program.”
Undoubtedly, there’s an excitement around this team. You may feel this could be an exceptional year with this group.
Brown, Jr. agrees.
“This team is going to be special,” said Brown, Jr. “Every player brings a different part of the game that we need. Everybody brings a different piece, but they’re all special pieces.”
Predicted to finish second in the Atlantic 10 in a field of 14 teams this year, Saint Joseph’s has the potential to make quite a splash on the national scene…especially with a starter who, despite missing an entire season, earned enough respect around the league to be voted onto this year’s A-10 Preseason All-Conference Third Team.
It’s a nice accomplishment, a nod to the achievements he has reached and the ways in which he will surpass them, but his sights are higher. When asked of his goals for this season, both individually and as a team, his answer was ready, as if he was asked his name or his hometown. It didn’t take any thought. There was an undeniable confidence when he answered.
“I want to be the A-10 Player of the Year, and I want to win a championship.”
There were no alternatives.
Did we mention that Charlie Brown, Jr. is back?