Brown likely to return to Illinois after break

Updated: June 11, 2005, 2:24 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

CHICAGO – Illinois guard Dee Brown broke his right foot during a game at the NBA pre-draft camp at the Moody Bible Institute on Wednesday, likely forcing the junior to withdraw from the NBA draft, Brown told ESPN.com.

The Big Ten player of the year and the Sporting News' national player of the year will have surgery later this week in Chicago and be out for at least two months.

Dee Brown
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDee Brown led Illinois to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament.

Brown, sitting outside the Wyndham Hotel with his foot in a cast and crutches by his side, was despondent over his luck. He had just exited the Northwestern Medical Center across the street.

Brown said he had a meeting set up with the Los Angeles Clippers and would like to fulfill a few other commitments this week, but was realistic that his NBA dream for this draft had abruptly ended.

"If they tell me to go back to school then that's what I'll do,'' Brown said. "That's OK. I'm OK with that.''

Brown said he would have to miss the Nike Camp, the Jordan Camp and wouldn't be available to try out for the USA Basketball U-21 team that is scheduled to play in August in Argentina. USA coach Phil Martelli of Saint Joseph's was waiting to see if Brown, who could be his starting point guard, would withdraw from the draft.

Brown said he's not sure how he injured his foot, but that he could have come down awkwardly on it during the game earlier Wednesday. He played a total of 10 minutes and actually ran up the court one more time after suffering the injury.

Other campers like Florida's Anthony Roberson and David Lee and Washington's Tre Simmons were stunned by the news.

Brown wanted to join his classmate Deron Williams in the draft and said he should have a similar shot at the first round, even though Williams was penciled in to be a top-five pick while Brown was projected as a second-round pick. The rub on Brown is that he needs to play the point. He was doing that through the first two days of the camp.

Now that Brown will likely return to Champaign, he'll join fellow returning starter James Augustine on the Illini next season. Illinois would still figure to be a postseason candidate and a potential Top 25 team with Brown and Augustine in the starting lineup. Brown would enter the season as one of the top five players for national player of the year honors.

The first-team All-American averaged 13.3 points, dished out a career-high 177 assists and 70 steals and shot 43.4 percent on 3s. He led Illinois with Williams, Luther Head and Roger Powell Jr. to the national title game, losing to North Carolina, the Illini's second loss of the season.

Illini teammate Roger Powell also was injured at the predraft camp, spraining his right ankle and leaving on crutches.

Illinois assistants Jay Price and Tracy Webster were in attendance Wednesday. Head coach Bruce Weber was on vacation. Brown said Tuesday that he had been dismayed by some of Weber's comments when Brown declared for the draft. He said he didn't think Weber thought he was serious enough about staying in the draft.

But any apparent rift appeared to be a moot point late Wednesday night as he sat outside the hotel, realizing that he would likely be back with the Illini for one more run.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com