The Wolverine

June-July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 45 2017 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE to win a state tournament game," he said, noting it was something people in his town would never forget. And they certainly won't forget him. Brooks earned all-state honors in Class 5A after being named to the then-largest clas- sification, Class 4A, second team following last sea- son. He scored 901 points this season, a v e r a g e d 2 9 . 7 points and 12.0 re- bounds per game, and shot 41.0 percent from the floor. Even more impressive to the peo- ple in his town, he took time to sign autographs for every kid who ap- proached him — sometimes for more than an hour after a game — posed for pictures and remained humble throughout. Part of that, perhaps, was due to the fact that he wasn't sure he'd ever become such a big deal. Playing off the beaten AAU path, Brooks wasn't certain what his ceiling was. Only when schools like Michigan, defending national champion (and childhood favorite) Villanova, Ohio State and North Carolina State started calling fre- quently and offered did he finally feel validated as a player. "I think that's what did it," he said. "I always knew I was a good player, but just getting those offers was another step in the rise of my abilities." They were on display one more time in early April, when he scored 28 points in the Pennsylvania All- Star team's win over Maryland's prep stars. For perhaps the first time all year, Brooks had some room to move on the court with- out being chased by two or three defenders. His father and coach, James Brooks, said it was fun to watch his son take advantage of seeing a more common defensive matchup. "You could see what he could be when he put it all together," his dad said. "When he has other peo- ple able to compete at that same level, someone to pass to where people can't double or triple team, only going against one defender …" Then he looks the part of a poten- tial high-major standout. Michigan head coach John Beilein is banking on that, of course, and Brooks is eager to prove himself. He'll arrive this June with humble expectations, but proud to be part of a program that surprised many with its Big Ten Tournament title and Sweet 16 run. Brooks was on hand for U-M's win over Illinois in Washington, D.C., and again for the win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Thousands of Michigan fans took over the arena, and he was one of them. "That was awesome … just great," he said. "I knew they had a big following, but I didn't expect it to be that much Michigan. It was great to see how big their brand is at that university, and rightfully so. "My personal expectation when I get there is just kind of get famil- iar with the campus, academic-wise first. The most difficult part will probably be trying to get used to the college life and just the respon- sibilities that come with being a student-athlete as well. "As far as basketball goes, I'll just try to assert myself in prac- tice, push the guys and see where it takes me." For the first time in his life, his dad won't be the one coaching him. James Brooks, however, is proud to pass the torch to Beilein, know- ing his son is in good hands. He's already bought plenty of Michigan gear, Eli said of his dad, and wears it proudly. "It's going to be different," James Brooks said. "But I will embrace it." He doesn't want to be the one holding his son back, he added. And while it will be a new experi- ence being away from his dad, with whom he's watched film since the second grade, the younger Brooks is ready for his next challenge. "It was great being able to bounce ideas off each other, to have such a good relationship with my coach," he said. "I could go to talk to him about different scenarios; he could give me feedback right away on my game. We'd share ideas about the game and gain knowledge from each other. "But I'm really excited [to get to Michigan]. I think I watched pretty much every single game they played that I could possibly watched. During JV games I even streamed them on my phone and was watching. I'm ready to get up there with the guys and just start the process." ❏ Spring Grove (Pa.) High head coach James Brooks on his son "You could see what he could be when he put it all together. When he has other people able to compete at that same level, someone to pass to where people can't double or triple team, only going against one defender …" Brooks — who picked Michigan over his childhood favorite Villanova — scored a school-record 2,426 points for Spring Grove (Pa.) High. PHOTO COURTESY JAMES BROOKS

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