The Wolverine

March 2020 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MARCH 2020 THE WOLVERINE 81 a school record and second-most in York County history — the high school star elevated his profile. He recalled going to Mt. St. Mary's University games with his dad, just over the Maryland border. "That was pretty cool," Brooks said. "I told my dad, 'I want to be on the court there one day.'" Instead, he found himself in maize and blue, helping set a Michigan pro- gram record with 33 victories as a freshman on the way to a berth in the national championship game. Two years later, he's playing under a new coaching regime, taking steps forward and devoid of any second guesses. "Before committing here, I realized there was the possibility of a coach leaving," Brooks said. "You have to have the mindset of, okay, if the coach leaves, would I still be happy with the school? There wasn't that much doubt in my mind about trans- ferring, because the school is such a great place." Brooks clarifies, noting it's great well beyond the occasional Final Four appearance. "It's just the atmosphere," he said. "You look around and you see so many great people who win here, and not just in athletics. They went to school and had a great career. It gives you an opportunity after basketball to set yourself up for life. "You're in one of the best con- ferences in America. You've got a chance to get seen that way, too." He's seen every game by his dad/ coach and his mom, Kelly. "He watches every game in the same exact spot, with my mom," Brooks noted. "I always get a pic- ture before the game with them — on the couch. It's the most comfortable spot." He also gets a mom's soothing words, regardless of the outcome, and less-frequent dad's observations. "He'll give some input," Brooks said. "My mom is more the person who just talks and does that kind of stuff. He wants to be in a parent role and not a coaching role right now. He doesn't want to mess up what Coach Howard and his staff have done with me. He tries to take a back seat." The son hasn't taken one this year, on the basketball or community re- lations front. And either way, Finn remains a rock-steady supporter. ❑ Juwan Howard Appreciates Eli Brooks' Effort Junior guard Eli Brooks stepped forward as one of Michigan's top defenders, and his new head coach appreciates it. Although Brooks built his standout prep reputation as a scorer, he's taken the next leap. "In my opinion — and I think it's shown in every game we play — he should be mentioned as one of the best defensive guards in college basketball," U-M coach Juwan Howard insisted. "He's had different assignments, guarding some of the best shooters in the league — not just in Big Ten play, but non-conference play. "He's also guarded some of the big wings, one through three. At times, he'll get switched off on the four man … he's a very good rebounder for his size. His instincts and his will to defend have been exceptional." Howard acknowledges Brooks experiences scoring swings — he scored 25 at Iowa and 24 against North Carolina, but features double-digit games where he wasn't in double digits. The head coach, though, insists there's much more to him than lighting up the scoreboard. "There are times when not only the media, but fans, will say, 'Hey, the ball is not falling. Why is he out there?'" Howard said, a look of bemusement on his face. "The kid's a winner. He's doing whatever it takes to help the team win. "He's accepted that role of being a two-way player, getting his hands dirty, do- ing whatever it takes. Doing the little things that don't show up in the box score. All you can do as a coach is appreciate a guy like that." — John Borton Brooks started only 12 times and averaged just 3.1 points per game in his first two years on campus. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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