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Former Gonzaga forward Ira Brown recovers from ‘very mild’ case of coronavirus

UPDATED: Sat., May 23, 2020

Former Gonzaga forward Ira Brown  has a monster slam over Team Utah center Akolda Manyang  in The Basketball Tournament, Friday, June 29, 2018, at Lewis and Clark High School. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Former Gonzaga forward Ira Brown has a monster slam over Team Utah center Akolda Manyang in The Basketball Tournament, Friday, June 29, 2018, at Lewis and Clark High School. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Ira Brown knew he wasn’t feeling right. He wasn’t too alarmed, but he sensed his body was fighting off something.

Brown had a low-grade fever for two days. His appetite never wavered, but he lost his sense of taste and smell for food.

“That’s when I knew for sure I had it,” the former Gonzaga forward said.

A test confirmed his suspicions. Brown, who has played professionally in Japan since 2011, was one of 13 Osaka Evessa players and team officials who tested positive for the coronavirus.

By the time he took the test, Brown was already on the road to recovery.

“Obviously, it differs with people,” he said. “For me, it was very mild, like a cold, but I didn’t have the runny nose or anything. It’s actually hard to compare it to anything.”

The Japanese league, like most sports teams around the globe, suspended play shortly after the initial outbreak. Osaka Evessa returned to action weeks later but managed to play just two games because a few players and officials fell ill.

The remainder of the season was canceled in late March. Brown and several teammates began showing symptoms of the virus, but it took almost three weeks before everyone was tested. Brown’s results came back a day and a half later.

The testing procedure – a swab deep into the nasal cavity – wasn’t pleasant.

“Extremely painful,” said Brown, who returned to Texas about a week ago. “It felt like they were touching my brain.”

The muscular, 6-foot-4 Brown said his recovery was assisted “100 percent” by his established routine of healthy eating habits and dedication to training. The 37-year-old has been taking vitamins since he was 18, and he drinks cold-pressed juice as well as green juice.

“It’s the weirdest thing ever,” Brown said. “It didn’t matter what I ate, I just couldn’t taste it or smell it. I’m trying my hardest to get a whiff of aroma. There’s a candy, an immune booster, and I’m eating it and I thought it tasted really good. Once I regained my taste, it was the worst-tasting candy.”

Brown drank four to five cups of tea – lavender, elderberry and echinacea – and took hot baths each day. He slept as much as possible and did everything he could to minimize his stress level.

“They wanted us to stay inside as much as possible,” he said. “I have this infrared (light therapy) machine, and it’s like I was getting the sun’s rays anyway.”

Most of his teammates rebounded quickly from the virus, but a trainer Brown estimated was in his upper 50s or lower 60s required hospitalization. Forward Sean O’Mara, who played at Xavier, “probably had the worst of it,” said Brown, a naturalized Japanese citizen. “He said he felt as if his eyes were going to pop out of his head because of the pressure he experienced, but he had some sinus issues he was taking medicine for.”

Brown was in the first season of a two-year contract. The terms guaranteed full pay despite the shortened season. He averaged 12.4 points, 7 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

The virus wiped out more than just a portion of Osaka Evessa’s season. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been rescheduled for the summer of 2021. Brown was positioned to represent Japan in the Olympic debut of 3x3 basketball.

“Everyone was bummed out,” Brown said. “Thank goodness they’re having it in 2021 if everything goes well.”

Brown believes the NBA and MLB could stage seasons without fans later this summer if events are held at one or a limited number of venues and measures are taken to reduce players’ interaction with the public.

Brown anticipates returning to Osaka in August, but he’s heard there have been discussions about delaying the start of the season from October to November.

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