Update: Brooks committed to Penn after school on Monday.
Every high school kid who dreams about playing college athletics needs to hear the story of Miller Grove High basketball star Henry Brooks.
It’s a sad story. But it could’ve been worse. And it most certainly will be better. We’ll make all of that make sense in a few minutes.
The 6-foot-7 Brooks had a half-dozen scholarship offers or so at the start of his senior year, including Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State, etc. But he wanted to wait and see if he could get an offer from bigger and/or closer school by the end of his senior year.
Yes, it was gamble. And it looked like a good gamble as Brooks led Miller Grove to an undefeated regular season. He was the team’s emotional leader and best defender. Colleges were noticing. UConn, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Minnesota, among others, all called with serious interest, pending offers, or scholarship papers.
Then everything changed with three games left in Brooks’ senior year. Less than a minute into the state quarterfinals, Brooks went down with a serious leg injury. Brooks didn’t want to believe it was serious. He wanted to go back into the same game, and dressed out for both the semifinals and championship game with the hopes he could play. Miller Groves coaches, concerned about the future of Brooks, never really considered risking it.
Miller Grove won the state championship without Brooks, who was a major reason why the Dekalb school made it there. A few days after the championship celebration, Brooks wasn’t celebrating. He found out his serious leg injury was a torn ACL in his left knee.
There was no way around it with college recruiters who were blowing up the cell phone of Miller Grove coach Sharman White. He delivered the somber news to the scouts about the injury, which will require 6-9 months of intense recovery. In football, because of the larger number of scholarships, it’s not as big of deal. In basketball, with the smaller number of scholarships, it can be a “deal breaker.”
“Missouri and Tennessee both had coaching changes, so we don’t know what’s going on there,” White said. “Mississippi State called before the injury and wanted to know ‘If they offered, would Brooks be interested?’ I told them I’m pretty sure he would because he’s from the [New Orleans area]. They called a few days after we got the results. We told them what the deal was. They said they would be in contact but you know how that goes. The injury probably scared a lot of them off.”
Ironically, Brooks took an official visit to Minnesota the day after his quarterfinals injury. He passed on the chance to commit to Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. Brooks simply wasn’t ready to make a decision yet. White said Minnesota remains interested while “they try to figure out their needs for next year.” They may need someone who can play right away.
Georgia Southern sees this as an opportunity to steal a top-flight player. They have made strong overtures to Brooks in recent days, along with offering a scholarship. If Brooks signs with Georgia Southern and isn’t ready to play next year, then he would be red-shirted.
White is betting that Brooks will be ready to play sooner than later, as in next year. But who knows? And when Brooks comes back, will he be the same type of high-energy player? You would like to think so.
Now here’s the happy part of the story: Brooks has a backup plan. No matter how the basketball part plays out, Brooks will be able attend college on a scholarship. An academic scholarship. Brooks has a 3.9 GPA and attracted interested from a few Ivy League schools.
“It’s tough for Henry, really tough,” White said. “It’s tough for all of us who care about Henry.
“It’s a great lesson for the young people out there — Do good in school so you don’t have to depend on an athletic scholarship to attend college.
“Henry will be able to play college basketball, but that may not be the case for other kids due to injuries and other reasons. That’s why you work hard and do good in school.”