These are difficult times for Georgetown's Fred Brown. His right knee still pains him, continuing to reduce his junior season to a sad limp.
And opposing guards such as Boston College's Dominic Pressley say things like, "It's not hard at all to run past Fred Brown. On one fast break, he was in front of me and I just blew right by him."
When the No. 14 Hoyas play No. 15 Syracuse at 1 p.m. today at Capital Centre, Brown might limp even more than usual. Now, even more than tendinitis plagues his right knee. Against St. John's Wednesday night Brown restrained the patella tendon in his knee while scoring on a marvelous, twisting drive early in the game.
On the court this season, you see Brown's humbling hobble, but you also see that bravado--the smirking and the talking--that tells you Fred Brown is from the Bronx. The court is his stage, but once the curtain draws and he is in the locker room, the real Brown emerges.
The chin drops so low it's hard to read the No. 20 on his jersey. Right now, the real Fred Brown is a sad Fred Brown.
"I can't move out there. I really can't do anything," Brown said recently. "I'm just there. I'm not jumping a whole lot. I'm not shooting. There's no comparison between me now and the way I was last year. It's very frustrating."
He can't run sprints in practices with the rest of the team. Brown says he does exercises on his own.
"Fred tries not to show it, but I've been here long enough to know him," said forward Bill Martin. "It probably bothers him knowing he can't do things he used to be able to do. He doesn't talk about it much, though."
"He has to learn to adapt to his present self and not play like his past self," said Coach John Thompson. "I offered Fred the opportunity to see if rest was the answer but he said he wanted to play."
People will always bring up the pass, the one he accidentally threw to Tar Heel James Worthy in the final moments of North Carolina's 63-62 victory over the Hoyas in last year's NCAA final.
"We don't talk about that anymore," said Thompson. "What good is it talking about it at this point? It would have no significant benefit."
Brown's statistics this season have dropped with his chin: he averages only 4.7 points per game (career average: 6.3), 23 minutes per game (career average: 27) and as the No. 3 man on Georgetown's all-time steals list (157), Brown averages one steal per game.
Considering everything, Brown has done remarkably well this season. He missed six of the first seven games, playing only two minutes in the Alabama State game Dec. 8.
"I guess, at times, it's frustrating to sit down and watch a game film and see something I could have done," said Brown. "I'm playing more mentally now. I'm trying to help the other players. I'm just basically there, playing to the best of my ability."
"Freddie has to play more like a forward than a guard now," said Thompson. "He tends to like to play the back court, though."
Previously, opposing guards reacted to Brown as though he were a red light. But the knee has changed the light to green; the world sprints past Brown now.
Twice this season, Brown was charged with fouls for shoving from behind guards who drove past him, heading for an easy layup. Perhaps this was merely Brown's frustration coming out.
The first time, Brown shoved Providence's Harold Starks with three seconds left in the Hoyas' 78-70 road victory. After Starks crashed into the bracket supporting the basket, both benches emptied and Brown was ejected.
The second time, Brown pushed Boston College's Pressley from behind on a similar play early in the second half of the Hoyas' 69-67 victory at Capital Centre. Pressley made the layup, crashed into the basket, told Brown, "Don't do it again," then completed the three-point play.
"I don't really think he (Brown) is a dirty player. I'm sure he's a really nice guy," Pressley said. "Maybe he is just frustrated."