MW MENS BASKETBALL: Brown back to form after injuryWORTHINGTON — Just eight games into his freshman season with the Minnesota West men’s basketball team, Orie Brown felt like he was on top of the world.
By: Jordan Willi, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Just eight games into his freshman season with the Minnesota West men’s basketball team, Orie Brown felt like he was on top of the world.
“I was feeling pretty good at the start of last season,” said the six foot, three inch sophomore guard. “I was playing some of the best basketball I have ever played in my life. I don’t know what it was, but I felt really comfortable playing here.”
Not only was Brown averaging 19.5 points and six rebounds a game, but the Bluejays were hitting their stride having won three straight to reach .500 on the season.
Then the worst happened.
On a routine set play, Brown drove around a screen, took two steps then his right knee gave out.
“He caught a pass and went to make a move and then he dislocated his kneecap,” MW coach Justin Heckenlaible said. “It was just a weird fluke. We all thought it was an ankle, but we hoped at worst that he was done for the season; at best maybe a month or two.”
When doctors took a look at his knee, they were not sure how Brown had managed to do so much damage given the way he hurt the knee.
“The doctor said he had never heard of someone hurting their knee this way before,” Brown said. “It was just a freak accident. I knew it was pretty bad, but I had hoped for the best. I didn’t know what to think when they told me I was out for three to four months.”
With Brown out for the duration of the season, Heckenlaible and the Bluejays needed to find a way to replace Brown’s production and do it quickly if they wanted to continue winning games.
“We lost a lot of scoring when Orie went down,” Heckenlaible said. “We had to change our offense because he was such a big part of our game. It was pretty much like we were starting over as a team with how many changes we had to make to adjust to his absence.”
After finding out his season was over, Brown was disappointed to say the least.
“When I found out the extent of the injury, I was like ‘Why did this happen to me?’” Brown said. “But then after a while, I started to see that things happen for a reason. I just wanted to get the surgery done and get started on building myself back up to where I had been.”
Throughout the summer, Brown stayed active with workouts, running and softball.
Coming into the preseason, Brown felt confident that he was going to be able to work his way back into the lineup pretty easily. However, a string of injuries, one to his left knee and another to his ankle, sidelined him for an extended period.
“It has been a long, tough road for him both physically and mentally,” Heckenlaible said. “You could see he was still a little rusty coming into the preseason, but he had worked hard all summer to get everything going again.”
One positive thing about Brown’s absence last season was that other players were forced to improve in order for the team to find success.
“One thing I noticed coming back to practices this year was that there is a lot more competition, especially with all the freshman talent that we brought in,” Brown said. “I feel like we have a lot more experience this season and it has felt good to be back.”
So far this season, Brown has averaged 13.75 points through four games for the Bluejays. Although he might not be averaging quite as many points as he was last season, Heckenlaible feels that it is better that Brown doesn’t have to carry the whole team on his back game-in and game-out.
“He hasn’t had to carry as much of the load this season with the rest of the team stepping up,” Heckenlaible said. “He doesn’t have to score 20 points a night for us anymore. So that is better for us as a team since it means guys don’t have to play as many minutes every game.”
Getting back on the court has meant a lot to Brown after he missed out on most of his freshman season.
“It has felt like redemption for me,” Brown said. “I’ve felt a little overexcited maybe, but I’ve been trying my best to keep my composure and not let my excitement throw off my play. There are so many people who have wanted to watch me play that it feels good to get out there and show them what I can do.”
The Bluejays are 3-1 after commanding double-digit wins against Madison, Mount Marty and Morningside College’s JV team. With a healthy team, Heckenlaible believes that the sky is the limit, especially if Brown continues to return to his old self.
“Orie is a big piece of this team and will help us get to where we want to go,” Heckenlabile said. “With the team we have it isn’t too hard to set our goal to making it to state. I’m really happy for Orie with how hard he has worked to make it back and get in shape again. He is a great young man on and off the court.”
Brown and the Bluejays are back in action Nov. 27, when they take on Dakota Wesleyan’s JV squad at 8 p.m. as part of a double-header with the women’s team.
Daily Globe Reporter Jordan Willi
may be reached at 376-7335.