Brooks ranks in the top 10 in career scoring at SIU.
Jan. 11, 2005
By Scott Mees
It is unlikely anyone will see Darren Brooks throw a fit on the basketball court over a bad call. DB will not be seen screaming at the other players, either. The reigning Missouri Valley Conference MVP simply keeps his cool at all times.
"He's a quiet leader," said SIU head coach Chris Lowery. "He has a great work ethic, and he shows how hard you have to work to be good."
Brooks leads the Salukis in scoring again this season, and he ranks among the top 10 in the MVC in steals and assists.
The St. Louis product also earned a large stack of honors from the Valley and publications around the country. The list from last season reads like this: MVC Player of the Year, MVC Defensive Player of the Year, Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American, MVC All-Defensive Team, MVC All-Tournament Team, and CollegeInsider.com's MVC Player of the Year.
But does Brooks even care about repeating those personal accomplishments this season?
"That would be putting a lot of pressure on myself," Brooks said. "I just want to go out and play, and have fun. I wanted to come back, and play my last year to try to help the team advance to the NCAA Tournament."
The Sweet 16 was a great experience three years ago, and Brooks wants to take it back to that level in 2005.
"The last two years we've lost in the first round," Brooks said. "So, we're trying to get over that hump right now."
The Big Dance is not the only hump that concerns Brooks. The senior would like to lead the Salukis to their first MVC Tournament Championship since he has been here.
"We definitely want to win that thing," Brooks said. "If you beat a team twice in the regular season, then they really scout and prepare for you that third time. Anybody can win it in St. Louis."
The 22-year-old guard graduated in May with a degree in health education. He currently attends graduate school at the university with a nine-hour load.
"I have more free time now, and it just feels good," Brooks said. "I can come in to get some extra shooting in, and I get a little more time to sleep, too."
Teammate Stetson Hairston and Brooks were freshmen when the Salukis marched to the Sweet 16, and they have complemented each other ever since.
"I don't know if I'll meet another guard as similar to me as him," Brooks said. "I'm definitely going to miss playing with him."
Time certainly flies when you're winning every year - three consecutive regular-season MVC titles, and three straight trips to the Big Dance. A former Saluki standout gave Brooks some valuable advice.
"Jermaine Dearman told me to enjoy it, because it will go by really fast," Brooks said. "He wasn't lying, because I'm already a senior."
SIU was lucky Brooks ended up here at all. The three-sport athlete had a variety of choices to consider while attending Jennings High School.
As a quarterback, Brooks won the conference Player of the Year award in football, and several colleges tried to persuade him to walk on.
DB earned all-conference honors in baseball as a shortstop and a pitcher, and the Braves and Diamondbacks were interested in him for his baseball skills.
So, SIU caught a break when it landed Brooks in 2000.
"There were always mixed emotions," Brooks said. "Some days, I'd lean toward basketball, some days toward football, and other days toward baseball. I just kind of went with my heart toward the end of my senior year, and it told me basketball."
Brooks toyed with the idea of turning pro after last season, but decided to stay at Southern partly because Chris Lowery was named head coach.
"It was just a big relief," Brooks said. "I was afraid of some new guy coming in here, changing things around, and not knowing anybody. I was excited because I knew (Lowery) was from here, and I just wanted things to go smoothly."
In the future, Brooks would like to look back on the 2004-2005 campaign with fond memories. The senior will never forget the lasting impression the Sweet 16 trip had on him.
"The run we made was incredible," Brooks said. "We were having fun beating those teams, and just feeling the excitement the whole town had."
When it is all said and done, DB will be remembered for his clutch scoring ability, fierce defense and team leadership. He is the epitome of what a well-rounded player represents.
"He was a role player his first year," Lowery said. "To jump up and be the best player, that shows you what type of character he is. He's a great kid and a tremendous student."