Ira Brown’s chiseled 6-foot-4 frame almost seems impervious to injury.
And for decades of his athletic career, it was.
The 36-year-old former Gonzaga Bulldog can’t recall missing a game due to injury, but a balky knee finally put him on the sidelines.
Brown, who has been playing professionally in Japan, returned to Spokane to have his knee operation performed Dec. 8 by Gonzaga team physician Russ VanderWilde. He’s been rehabbing at GU with guidance from former Zag Mike Nilson at U-District PT.
“That’s one of the reasons I came back. Literally everything is here in one spot – basketball, rehab, doctors,” said Brown, a high-flying fan favorite with the Zags in 2008-09. “Once I get over this, things will be fine.”
That time is near. Brown expects to be back in Japan soon to resume his second season with the Okinawa-based Ryukyu Golden Kings. He hopes to play the final two-plus months of the season.
Brown was in the midst of another strong season in Japan, where he’s played for three teams over the past eight years. He was chosen for the B League All-Star game but couldn’t shake the knee injury that occurred during a stint on the Japanese national team alongside Gonzaga junior forward Rui Hachimura.
“I got injured in September with the national team and played through it much as I could,” said Brown, a naturalized Japanese citizen. “My GM and head coach gave me the OK to get surgery when I couldn’t do much with it.”
Ryukyu, 17-5 at the time, is 24-10 and still leads the B League West Division.
Brown has attended a few Gonzaga home games and he’s been working out at the new Volkar Center.
“Oh my gosh, that place is phenomenal,” Brown said. “I go there every day. It literally has everything an athlete needs. I’m very jealous of the current players.”
By the way, Brown’s All-Star invitation went to another former Zag.
“The person they chose to replace me was Rob (Sacre),” Brown said with a chuckle. “Of all people, Rob.”
The two were teammates for the Hitachi Sunrockers in Tokyo before Brown accepted a lucrative offer to join Ryukyu. Sacre made the most of the opportunity, with five dunks and a team-high 26 points in last week’s All-Star game.
Here’s a roundup of former Zags playing professionally overseas:
• Kevin Pangos is in his first season with FC Barcelona (Spain) after having a big season with Zalgiris in Lithuania last year. Pangos averages 9.6 points, 2.8 assists and 1.7 rebounds. He’s shooting 51.7 percent, including 42.3 percent on 3-pointers, and 86 percent on free throws for Barcelona (15-2).
• Kyle Wiltjer averages 11.6 points and 2.3 rebounds for Spain’s Unicaja Malaga (11-6). He’s shooting 60.3 percent, 44 percent on 3s, and 80 percent at the foul line. He hit four 3s and scored 14 points in a Dec. 16 win over Pangos (two 3s, 8 points) and FC Barcelona in December.
• Nigel Williams-Goss averages 10.9 points, 4.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds for Olympiacos, which is 13-1 and leads the Greece A-1 League. He’s shooting 42.5 percent, 41.5 on 3s, and he’s 23 of 23 on free throws. He averages 9 points and 4.6 assists in 20 EuroLeague games. He had 10 points, four boards and four assists in a 69-60 EuroLeague win over Pangos and FC Barcelona last month.
• Silas Melson averages 8.8 points and 1.9 rebounds for Lavrio (Greece). He’s shooting 58 percent from the field, 33.3 percent beyond the arc. Melson is one of four Zags in the A-1 League.
• Gary Bell Jr. (Aris Thessaloniki, Greece) averages 9.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He’s shooting 44.4 percent, 32 percent on 3-pointers. He’s averaging 12.3 points on 58-percent shooting in four Basketball Champions League contests. He scored eight points in a 73-70 win over Melson and Lavrio back in October.
• Przemek Karnowski is playing for his hometown team Polski Cukier in Torun, Poland. He averages 3.8 rebounds and 8.7 points on 61.5-percent shooting, having played in six of 17 games; he’s been sidelined since late November with an injury.
• Eric McClellan has rejoined his former team Mineros in Mexico after starting the season with Pieno Zvaigzdes in Lithuania. He’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in seven games. He’s made 35 percent of his shots, including 52 percent of his 3s.
• Micah Downs is having a great year with Benfica in Portugal. He averages 17.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4 assists for the 15-0 team. He’s shooting 58.3 percent and hitting 82 percent at the free-throw line. He’s averaging 23.5 points in two Euro Cup games.
• Steven Gray averages 11.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists for Peristeri GS Athens in Greece. He’s shooting 50 percent from the field and 90 percent at the foul line. Gray’s team has two wins over Lavrio (Melson) and Aris (Bell), but lost to Olympiacos (Williams-Goss).
• Elias Harris is playing in his native Germany for Brose Baskets Bamberg. He averages 8 points and 3.7 rebounds. He’s shooting 65.4 percent from the field and is averaging 9.4 points in Basketball Championship League games.
• Jeremy Pargo missed significant time with an injury, but he returned recently and he’s averaging 6 points, 4.3 assists and 2 rebounds for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.
• Kyle Dranginis has missed all but one game due to injury. He’s with Romerstrom Gladiators Trier (Germany).
• Byron Wesley is putting up big numbers – 21.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists – for Hapoel Kfar Saba in Israel. He’s shooting 52.6 percent, including 37.8 percent on 3s, and 79.7 at the foul line.
• Austin Daye averages 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds for Umana Reyer Venezia (Italy). He’s made 40 percent of his field-goal attempts, 35 percent of 3s and 91.7 percent of free throws.
• Robert Sacre averages 18.3 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Hitachi Sunrockers in Japan. He’s shooting 53.6 from the field and 74.0 at the free-throw line.
• Ira Brown is averaging 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Ryukyu Golden Kings in Okinawa, Japan.
• Drew Barham averages a team-high 16.8 points on 50-percent shooting and 3.9 rebounds for Hamburg Towers in Germany. He plays a team-leading 28.5 minutes per game.
• Abdullahi Kuso averages a double-double (15.2 points, 10.7 rebounds) and 3.1 assists for Gunma in the Japanese B2 League. He’s hitting 52.1 percent of his shots, 70.4 percent at the free-throw line.
• Mathis Keita averages 8 points, 4.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds for Roanne in France. He’s made 50 percent of his shots and played in eight of 16 games.
• J.P. Batista is playing 31.3 minutes per game and averaging 18.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists for Mogi in his native Brazil. He’s making 58 percent from the field and 75 percent at the foul line.
• Guy Landry Edi averages 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds for Kataja in Finland. He’s played in 11 of the team’s 33 games.
• David Stockton averages 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists for Bayreuth in Germany. He’s shooting 47.4 percent, 46.2 on 3s and 87.5 on free throws. He had five points and six assists in an 94-84 win over Elias Harris (8 points) and Brose Baskets earlier this month.
• Mathis Monninghoff averages 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds for BG Goettingen in Germany. He’s shooting 56.3 percent from the field. He plays with Michael Stockton, David Stockton’s older brother.
• Angel Nunez averages 17.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in eight games for Bank of Taiwan. He’s made 50.6 percent from the floor.
• Jordan Mathews averages a team-high 19.9 points, 4 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Naestved in Denmark. He’s shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 46.3 percent beyond the 3-point line.
• Ryan Edwards is averaging 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game for Valls Nutrion in Spain. He’s made 48 percent from the field, including 35.7 percent on 3s.
• Rem Bakamus is in his first season as a graduate assistant at Baylor.
• Grant Gibbs is a second-year assistant coach with Oklahoma City in the NBA G-League.
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