The legend of Aaron Brooks was passed along ...t again — from a coach to his players. "If you want to be the best, you have...
The legend of Aaron Brooks was passed along — yet again — from a coach to his players.
“If you want to be the best, you have to work the hardest,” Franklin High School boys basketball coach Jason Kerr said, recalling the lecture he gave his team Tuesday, which included memories of his NBA-bound former player. “I told them that’s one thing Aaron Brooks always has recognized.”
Naturally, as Kerr was motivating his team at Gonzaga’s camp in Spokane, Brooks was in Phoenix, going through an encore audition for the Suns. Roughly half of the NBA’s 30 teams have seen him in private workouts. The rest scrutinized his game during the Orlando predraft camp.
The draft is a day away. Teams must stop nitpicking and start appreciating.
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With Brooks, there’s much to appreciate.
If you doubt whether he’s big enough to be an NBA factor, you’re thinking too hard. If you wonder whether he has the talent, you’re not giving him enough credit.
Ht: 6-0. Wt: 160
High school: Franklin
His game: A super-quick slasher who finishes well despite his small stature. His jumper improved greatly his senior season.
Best guess: A second-rounder, unless a team picking late in the first round (Phoenix, Detroit or San Antonio, perhaps) decides Brooks fills its backup point guard need.
The former Oregon guard can find a spot in the league as a high-energy reserve. He doesn’t project to become a starter in the NBA, and therefore he’s likely a second-round pick. There’s a slim chance a playoff team picking late in the first round — think Phoenix, Detroit or San Antonio — might select him higher than expected because he’d fill a backup point guard need.
But even if Brooks falls to the second round, the land of nonguaranteed contracts, don’t expect him to disappear. In fact, a snub only would feed the underdog’s chip he has developed.
Critics say Brooks, who’s just shy of 6 feet tall, is too short to play shooting guard and doesn’t have the court vision to be a point guard. They say he’s streaky. They reference his infamous incident with Washington guard Ryan Appleby to try to attack his character.
Still, Brooks is 22 and getting better. He turned his career around last season while leading the Ducks to the Elite Eight. He averaged 17.7 points and 4.3 assists, and the numbers don’t fully explain his impact.
In the final game of his Oregon career, against back-to-back national champion Florida, Brooks scored 27 points. Florida will have three players (Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah) drafted in the lottery Thursday, and a fourth (Taurean Green) could land in the first round. Yet in that Elite Eight game against Oregon, Brooks looked like the best player on the court.
“He’s impossible to stay in front of,” Brewer said of Brooks.
Quickness is Brooks’ finest NBA skill. If he makes it, it will be because his ability to penetrate puts tremendous pressure on defenses.
Throughout the draft process, Brooks has likened himself either to Tony Parker or “T.J. Ford with a better jump shot.” Of course, every quick, small guard now compares himself to Parker or Ford or Chris Paul. He won’t be as good as those three, but he can be a solid role player in time.
During the NCAA tournament, I asked Brooks about the perception that he doesn’t have a true position. He thrived his senior season partly because freshman Tajuan Porter played the point and allowed Brooks to roam freely.
Brooks simply said he’s a basketball player. Then he explained how basketball is evolving into a game with more dual-point-guard lineups.
“If you can play,” he said, “there’s always a place for you on the court.”
Kerr has watched Brooks evolve from an 18-year-old hotshot recruit to a poised adult. The two talk regularly. Kerr doesn’t offer advice; he just listens. Kerr says that Brooks isn’t worried about Thursday’s draft, that Brooks is satisfied knowing he has made his case to be drafted.
Now he waits for one team to believe in him. One admirer — that’s all it takes.
“He’s been working his tail off,” Kerr said.
“They’ve got him hustling. He’s no Kevin Durant or Greg Oden, who are locks to go high. He’s fighting to get into that first round and get that guaranteed contract.”
He needs that money. He has a 1-year-old daughter, MiKah, to support.
Brooks should get an opportunity. He’ll need a year to tweak his game, but all players need that year. Many of them lose their confidence in the struggle to adjust. Brooks won’t. He has already passed a stress test.
A year ago he was uncertain about his future and wondering if he needed to leave Oregon to help his family. Now he’s one day from his dream.
“He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s athletic,” Kerr said of Brooks. “But there’s a lot of quick, fast and athletic guys, especially in the NBA. What separates Aaron is that he’s grown tremendously from every experience he’s had, and nobody’s going to outwork him.”
Well, the hope is NBA general managers will outwork him. Because they need to be creative and give the little guy a chance.
If a GM does his homework, he won’t regret selecting Brooks.