'Steady rise' of Temple guard Brooks

Temple's Ryan Brooks earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors after scoring a career-high 29 on Saturday vs. UMass.
Temple's Ryan Brooks earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors after scoring a career-high 29 on Saturday vs. UMass.
Posted: January 20, 2010

SENIOR TEMPLE GUARD Ryan Brooks is the top scorer on the nation's 16th-ranked team. Which makes him one of the best there is in the Big 5 and the Atlantic 10.

Not bad for someone who came out of Lower Merion High as somewhat of an afterthought, despite the fact that he had played for the state runner-up as a junior and a state champion his final season.

Or even for a guy who was mostly a role player in his first two seasons on North Broad Street.

"I definitely think I was underrecruited," recalled Brooks, who is averaging 16.1 points per game, 5.5 more than last season, entering tonight's first-place scrum between the Owls (15-3, 3-0) and Xavier (12-5, 4-0) at the Liacouras Center. "It worked out to my advantage, I think.

"It allowed me to play with a chip on my shoulder. I'm pretty laid-back. But inside, I have a fire that has to be fueled. It pushes me, makes me work that much harder to achieve certain things. I look forward to proving to any critic, or doubter, what is possible if you believe and are determined."

Four years ago, the 6-4 Brooks didn't really have many Division I options. It reached the point where he was actually leaning toward a year of prep school. At the time Fran Dunphy had just moved across town from Penn to succeed John Chaney. Temple assistant Dan Leibovitz, who would soon leave to take over the Hartford program, had been in contact. But the Owls had no scholarships left to give.

Brooks remembers some talk about walking on to try and earn a scholarship. "But that's not a situation most players would like to be in," he noted. Then two players Chaney recruited chose to go elsewhere. It was late in the process, but Brooks finally had his offer. And Dunphy got his first signee.

Brooks has become an indispensible component of a club that is going for its third consecutive A-10 title, even though it was picked to finish fifth in the conference preseason poll.

"He's just kind of taken off," Dunphy said. "That's how it used to be in college basketball. You paid your dues, then you arrived. And for him, it's been a steady rise.

"I wasn't sure [what we had]. I thought he was a good athlete, and a good human being, and his teams won. Every time I talked to [Lower Merion coach] Gregg [Downer] about him he'd just say, 'They don't make them any better.' So the quality of kid was impressive.

"Teams take on the personality of their leaders. He's not what some would view as dynamic, but he's a solid, confident kid. He knows exactly the right thing to do, when his team needs him. He's not afraid of the moment. He's somebody we can't do without."

The past few seasons, Brooks has been Temple's top on-the-ball defender. But this season's Owls needed to replace the 20 points a game that Dionte Christmas had given them for 3 consecutive years. Brooks and sophomore guard Juan Fernandez, who is averaging 13.4 points, have taken on much of that load. It also helps that the Owls are among the best in the country at keeping the opponent from putting the ball in the basket.

"It's been different," Brooks admitted. "But I knew what was coming, and I prepared myself. I've always felt comfortable with wherever I fit in. I believe I can contribute a lot, and I have. I took everything in stride. I was really just thankful for the opportunity I was given. I knew my time was coming. Could I have predicted it would happen like this? No, but I have to be the go-to man, in certain situations. You have to embrace that, if you want to go out strong.

"I'm used to being the guy that had to stop the other team's best player. Now I'm being targeted the same way at the other end."

Brooks, who just won his first A-10 Player of the Week award after scoring a career-high 29 Saturday against Massachusetts, is second on the team in rebounding (5.3 average) and free-throw percentage (80), and third on the team in assists (48). He also just became the 45th Owl to score 1,000 points.

Some role.

"The reality is, if he were just a defensive player and wasn't scoring like he was, [people] wouldn't give him the requisite [recognition]," Dunphy said. "But he's a complete basketball player. There's not much I have to worry about. He's so low-maintenance it's frightening."

It's the way he was taught, by a single-parent mother (Darlene Marie) who adopted him when he was born.

"She did a great job," Brooks said. "We've spent so much time together. She was the one who put me in a sporting environment at an early age. A lot of people would say I'm pretty spoiled.

"One time, she asked me if I was interested in meeting my real parents. I said no. We never spoke about it again. Not having a father is definitely not a sore subject with me. We made it to this point, just the two of us, and I've loved every step of the way. I wouldn't change it, in any way.

"I have to give credit to all the people who've been in my corner, throughout my life."

It promises to make for some moist eyes on Senior Night.

"I don't even want to think about that," he said. "I haven't really sat down and reflected. I want to enjoy this as long as it lasts, just really embrace the rest of my career to the fullest."

Like Brooks, the Owls aren't always pretty. Yet like many Temple squads from the not-too-distant past, they sure can be effective.

"In high school, we were always the underdog," Brooks said. "We had to fight for everything, if we wanted to compete. We were playing Chester, Plymouth-Whitemarsh, schools like that. We had to do anything we could to succeed. It seems like we find ways to win here, too . . .

"I still take more pride in stopping the other team's best player. I love to have that on my shoulders. You don't always score. You need something to fall back on."

It's a mentality worth following. All the way to the Madness, once again. *

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