Wheaton College men’s basketball has a new look squad this season. The Lyons graduated a strong group of seniors and are incorporating nine freshmen into the lineup. One of the “new” faces for Wheaton this winter is a familiar one, as senior point guard Alex DuBrow has made a full recovery from a knee injury that kept him out of all but four games as a junior.
DuBrow has fit seamlessly back into the rotation, leading the Lyons in minutes per game (35.0), points per game (14.3), and assists per game (7.7) through the opening three contests. Wheaton, which was picked last in the NEWMAC preseason coaches poll, has started 2-1.
“It feels amazing,” said DuBrow about getting back on the court. It was one year to the day from his injury and he reflected on his long year and his long recovery to be ready for his senior season. “It was hard…mentally, physically, just sitting every day doing rehab versus playing with my brothers.”
After winning three of the first four games last year, Wheaton looked poised for big things and the former Foxboro High standout was right at the heart of it. But in the fifth game, on an otherwise innocuous drive to the basket, DuBrow felt something pop. He tried to fool the trainers and get back on the court (“Probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” he joked), but that was the end of a season in which he felt ready to make his mark.
“The hardest part for me, mentally, was that I was never going to play with those seniors again,” said DuBrow, who noted that he worked the whole summer on his game in preparation. “As a freshman I played a bit and as a sophomore I played a bit, but last year was really the year where those guys I had played with the last few years, it was our time and we really thought we had something going. We were all feeling good and I went down and it kind of sucked.”
For the first time in his playing career, DuBrow was out for a sustained period of time and it gave him a new perspective that, as a team captain, he is trying to share with the many underclassmen on this year’s squad.
“I definitely learned patience. Not everything goes your way,” he explained. “I’ve told them not to take any day for granted because even if you don’t get hurt the four years flies by. These guys, most of them have 80-90 games left, and each one is unique. Keep playing for each other, be a brotherhood, be a family, so that everything on the court is easier.”
DuBrow’s recovery was helped by having his former Foxboro teammate Robby Lowey by his side. The point guard and center combo has played together since middle school and DuBrow said that the chemistry between them on and off the court remains as strong as ever.
“I’ve been throwing him the ball for eight years now and he had to kind of adjust to that, but we’re right back at it,” DuBrow said. “I think seeing him out on the floor with me is always a good thing. We both start together with three freshmen and leading with him, coming back from injury, I think it just made everything more comfortable.”
He was cleared for basketball activities in August and has to wear a brace on his left knee for at least the remainder of this season. DuBrow admitted there has been an adjustment period, trying to get accustomed to wearing a brace, trying to overcome any hesitation about cutting or going to the basket, and trying to find different ways to contribute while building his speed back up.
All of that was in play in the season opener against Wentworth, as well as some early game jitters. The Lyons fell behind by more than 20 points, but were able to chip away at the lead, eventually forcing overtime.
“I told the guys at halftime, it’s just basketball,” DuBrow said. “There’s a reason you’re playing at this level and I knew that for myself that there was a reason I got cleared and fought so hard to be back and then we made our comeback.”
Although Mansfield’s Tommy Dooling ruined Wheaton’s and DuBrow’s comeback with a last second three that handed Wentworth a double overtime victory, it was a game that DuBrow (who scored 19 in the loss) thinks will be a springboard to a big season.
“It was a tough loss but we’re young and I think we learned a lot that game,” he said.
“We were picked last in the NEWMAC but I don’t think teams really know what we‘ve got. I’m healthy, we’ve got Rob as a senior, a couple other upperclassmen, and then nine guys who are competing every day in practice. I think we’re going to be pretty good and I hope this is just the groundwork for years to come for these young guys because they have a lot of promise.”
The freshmen have given DuBrow a boost of energy this season and he is ready to get back to being the pesky point guard that other teams hate to play against. He dished out 10 assists in a home-opening win against Framingham State (Lowey led the way with 19 points), and then led the team with 18 points and five assists to beat Dean College.
“My teammates and coaches, the trust they have in me to run the show really has helped me get back to my normal self and hopefully stronger this year than I ever have been,” said DuBrow. “When the shot clock winds down, they throw me the ball and I go make a play and I’m confident that every time I can do so. The confidence in myself and the confidence that my coaches and my teammates have in me is what pushes me to succeed.”
There is also an appreciation that there is one last chance to impress at Wheaton (DuBrow has a year of eligibility remaining, but Wheaton do not have a graduate program so he would have to go to another school). He is excited to be back on the court and he and the rest of the seniors are not taking anything for granted this season.
“Basketball, that’s my life,” he said. “It’s what I look forward to every single day, practice, games, and just one wrong step, non-contact, took that all away from me last year.
“We know it’s our last year. We looked at each other like what the heck is this team going to look like next year because we didn’t know who was coming in. Once we played pickup with these guys, we thought this could be special and we just have to lead them.”