With his body on the mend from three ACL surgeries, Stanford's double redshirt sophomore forward Andy Brown took advantage of his time away from the court to sharpen his basketball mind.
Now that he's healthy, Brown is using that knowledge to help the Card on the floor.
"I was able to just sit and watch and kind of analyze the game and I feel like there's a lot more things that I can see that maybe some other guys don't," Brown says. "I try to help my team with that a lot of times when we're in huddles I'll kind of throw my two cents.
"There were a couple of times this year where I've seen something and I've told coach to draw up this play and it's worked for the most part... Coach a lot of times says that it's kind of like having another coach out there, which is always nice."
Stanford junior forward Dwight Powell, says that Brown's teammates appreciate his insights.
"The guys, especially the younger guys, value everything he says," Powell says. "He's not necessarily out there talking all the time like the coaches would be but when he says something it's of value and we appreciate it."
Brown's value to the Card goes far beyond his insights into the game, however. Brown has been the most efficient offensive player on the Cardinal team (his 50.6 percent shooting clip is tops on the roster), and ranks in the top-five on the team in numerous statistical categories.
"I think Andy has been probably one our most steady players," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins says. "I think he really helps us. He does a great job of facilitating the basketball. He's heady on defense. He makes plays for you on both ends. I'm just really proud of his effort and what he's been able to do coming off the injury."
But Brown's return to the highest level of collegiate competition from injury wasn't always a sure thing. At one point, he wasn't sure he would ever be healthy enough to resume his college career.
Quitting, on the other hand, was never an option.
"I think that the biggest struggle for me was not knowing if I wanted to play, but knowing if I would be able to play," Brown says. "I didn't know if my knee was ever going to be able to hold it because after rehab for almost a year and then boom, one day I'm on the court for an hour and a half and it's gone again and then another 10 months and then in two weeks it's gone again."
But for now, Brown is operating at nearly full efficiency. Though there are still some residual effects of the surgeries, Brown is no longer limited -- physically or psychologically -- by the knee problems.
"I really rarely have any issues now," Brown says. "Every once in a while it will lock up in practice and I just kind of have to stop and after about a minute or two it goes right back and everything is fine. There's a lot of scar tissue still in there that you can't break up. So it's going to be there, it's going to kind of be with me for the rest of my life which I've been accustomed to, but it feels great. I don't really even notice it anymore. I wear a knee sleeve/brace to help support it and it makes everything fine."
If fans weren't aware of Brown's history, they probably wouldn't notice anything wrong with him physically, either. Brown is fifth on the team in minutes played per game, Perhaps the only area of Brown's game still impacted by the injuries is his perimeter shooting.
"He's everything you see now except he was a better shooter," Dawkins says. "He was a better shooter coming out of high school. I think that the injuries and just your overall balance and stuff with your legs and having to push off takes a little while to get that back, but everything else you see that's where Andy is. And (when he was) open, you figure he was a knock down shooter. He would knock those down."
While spending the better part of three years off the court allowed Brown to improve his basketball acumenm, he's always been a quick learner. Even dating back to high school and AAU ball Brown had a good feel for the game.
"I had a lot of coaches who knew a lot about the game and tried to share that with me and I tried to grasp them as well as I could, a lot of the concepts," Brown says.
Though Brown has two years of basketball eligibility remaining after this year, he's only planning to utilize one of them. At the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season, Brown will be done with his Master's degree in communication and ready to move on to the next stage of life. What, exactly, the future has in store is somewhat uncertain.
"I definitely want to do something with basketball," Brown says. "I feel like I have a really good IQ and knowledge of the game. Coach Dawkins always says that to me too, and I've been told that for a while, at my high school as well. I don't know, maybe get into coaching at the college level. Maybe go into broadcasting with my communication degree, or possibly depending on if my basketball career continues to kind of rise and things like that and the knee feels fine, no more problems with it, maybe try to go play professionally in Europe but as of now, I'm not too positive.
"I know I only have a year left so it's kind of getting scary because you're not really sure what you're going to do, but right now I'm just trying to focus on the season and maybe thing of some of that stuff later."