Milan, Jeff Brooks: "I'm versatile, and also a great competitor"
Jeff Brooks is a veteran of Europe. He’s been playing in Italy, at every level, he’s played in Russia, Spain and along the way he raised a Eurocup trophy and has been a consistent feature in the EuroLeague competition. This is his first season in Olimpia, the team that he competed hard battles when he was playing for Sassari and edged Milan for two trophies and a dramatic game 7 win in the Italian league semis, right at the Mediolanum Forum.
HIS BEGINNING – “I’ve been playing basketball for a very long time. I’ve been playing since I was 2 years old. My dad introduced me to the game, he knows basketball in every sense. I’ve always had a strive to arrive, and to be in the NBA but at the end of the day dreams don’t always come to reality. I took my opportunity to come to play professionally in Italy after in my senior year at Penn State I hurt my shoulder and didn’t have any options. The team in Jesi gave me an opportunity and that’s where my professional career started. I’m very grateful for it to them, without them I wouldn’t be where I’m today. Having a fresh start in my 8th year. It’s been a long road to be here in Olimpia Milano and I’ve enjoyed every second of my career, and I hope to continue to enjoy every second of my career, for as long as it is going to be”.
ABOUT NOT STAYING IN KENTUCKY FOR COLLEGE – “I wasn’t disappointed. I actually needed to get away from home. One reason of why I say that is because being alone makes you strong. That’s what my dad told me since I was 14, 15 years old. Going away nine hours helped me mature quickly. No doubts I was on my own, no parents there to wake me up in the morning for workouts, no mom there making breakfast in the morning, grandmother to make stuff. It really made me bring my mental side, not just my basketball, up a level. Because many things I had to do by myself, I had to make sure I had to go to class on time, to workouts, made sure at the meetings I had academic tutors, mentors. It was a very challenging experience, in my first year, as a freshman. I had to get everything into a routine. Every thing became like a clockwork. It was needed. If it wasn’t at Penn State, it was going to be at some other place, but I didn’t think to stay at home. I needed to get away to become a man, thinking my parents won’t take care of all, I had to become a man earlier. And that’s the reason why I was happy to get away from home”.
PENN STATE AND THE NIT CHAMPIONSHIP – “One thing I would say about going away to school is it was mind-opening. I come from not a small city, I come from a pretty big city, I come from an area not so good, so going away to school and having social access, just getting free education, and then playing basketball with a very good team as far as people, not so much as far as prestige, we had so much fun just getting to know each other, being in a group, being in a family. Winning the NIT was huge, I’d never really won a championship as far as being in a team, it was my first championship. I was so ecstatic, I didn’t know what to do. Going to the National Tournament my senior year, was always the goal. If you ask anybody who plays Division One sports, and especially basketball, making the national tournament is definitely the goal. Every year get there and let’s see what happens. Making it was big for us. We haven’t been in there for almost two decades at Penn State and when we made it that year there were fireworks going on. There’s a video of us celebrating on youtube. It was an amazing experience for me just to be around such good people allowed me to learn so many things, not just basketball but about myself. I will be forever grateful for that experience”.
FROM JESI TO THE EUROLEAGUE – “It’s funny because honestly I never really knew what the EuroLeague was. When I played in Jesi the only thing I knew was the A2, I knew where my goal was, being in a good team, being one of the best players in the league, I wasn’t thinking about A1, the Eurocup, the EuroLeague. I didn’t know nothing about them, I just stuck about the A2 and that was where my job where. And then jumping to Cantù and heard about the EuroLeague, I was asking questions what was this EuroLeague I don’t know there is. And they said just wait to be playing in it and enjoy it and you’ll love it. We had a preseason tournament to qualify and wasn’t in Cantù, it was played in Desio. The first game I felt the complete difference with the A2 and the few scrimmages I played with the A1. When we did the EuroLeague qualifier I said this is something different, this is something I didn’t know about, let me really try to understand what this is. And after playing for four years I know what I want to do and every year I want to play in the EuroLeague if I do have the opportunity. It’s an amazing experience, going to different countries, see different fans, different types of basketball, different coaching philosophies. It’s an amazing experience and I’m happy to be back for a fifth experience. I’m very excited”.
THE KEY YEAR IN CASERTA – “One reason was because I come from humble beginnings. When I first played in Cantù, going to a EuroLeague team, there were different things happening, increase of money, the difference in lifestyle and being young I felt like I have lost focus in Cantù. I was having more fun buying clothes, wanting to go out, eat, being late at night, stuff like that that young players do. I felt like in Caserta I had to change my mindset, change my lifestyle, understand why I’m here, why God put me over here. It’s to play basketball, to enjoy not just the amenities which are the money, and being able to send money home to my parents and blah blah blah, but also to enjoy what I’m doing on the floor, every day at practice, things like that. Playing with Caserta was 180 degree as far as my approach to the game. Playing for Coach Molin really helped because he was in Cantù the year before and he saw a completely different player. And also the league did, I was an All-Star that year and I felt like that year I put everything I had into being the best player I could be. I felt like the year before I was so overwhelmed by the differences from playing in the A2 and coming to a EuroLeague team. I had a completely different mindset going to Caserta, I had much more focus about what I wanted to be as a basketball player. And as a person everything changed that year: me and (now) my wife we were living together so everything changed when I got to Caserta. Just who I was as a person and as a player. I felt like it is a very important year for who I’m today”.
THE RIVAL TEAM FROM SASSARI – “It isn’t weird because at the end of the day is just life, it is about transition, it is about changes. I’m happy to be here and I remember every second of that year because everybody was always talking about Sassari and Milano. It was like the battle of giants. I’m a creature of where I’ve been, of the experiences I had playing in Italy and here I’m today, three years later I play for Milano and now all my efforts, my sweat, blood, pain, tears are going to Milano. You can’t have remorse, you go where you go, you go where people want you to be and play, you give 100 percent and do what you can do. I’m incredibly happy for what happened there but here is where I am now and I want to win trophies here”.
NEMANJA NEDOVIC – “What I like to call Nedovic is a microwave. He’s the guy if he gets hot he then is impossible to stop. I’ve seen practices and I’ve seen games where he makes one or two shots and he’s your worst nightmare. He’s ultra-aggressive, and the one thing I like about Nemanja is that he’s aggressive with confidence. He wants to help his team win, he wants to make plays. And one thing I have always being attracted to him as a teammate is with this guy on my team I know that this guy is ready for the battle. Something that we both have as far as coming to this experience together in Milano is that we know each other not just as far as what we can do as players but we know our mentalities and this is really good to have. Having this two-year experience with him, and coming here now with such a team, size, athleticism, and defensive capabilities that we have here in Milano is like adding two more slices to a huge pie”.
BROOKS, THE PLAYER – “The word I like to use about myself is versatility. I can do many things, I’m not going to say I’m extremely great at just one thing. I like to be able to do many things, I like to be able to handle the ball, pass, shoot, defend, rebound, block shots, get in the passing lanes, I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades, you throw me any worry and I will try to affect the game somehow some ways. And it’s a testament to where I have been since I’ve been playing pro. Many coaches, many players have seen me play and know like “he’s just not one-dimensional in the way that he plays the game, he can get an offensive rebound, or get out in the passing lane and make a steal or make an assist at the other end, or get a big rebound in the last minute of the game that seals the win for his team”. The word is versatility but I’m also a competitor. I just want to win. Every time I’m on the floor I want to win, I don’t care how I go about it, what happens in the game, the stats, the things that only matters is who wins, that’s how I was raised. Everybody loves a winner, but I just love to win, every time I step on the floor. That’s what I bring to the table and that’s what I bring to the table here in Milano”.
THE EXPECTATIONS – “For me personally the only thing that I ask of myself every day that I step on the floor is I feel I got better, I feel that I gave everything that I have. The stats, all that stuff is beyond me. I don’t’ really fit into it because this is what got you into wrong thinking. This is a team, this is not tennis where you play singles, it’s not swimming where you swim in your own lane. You bring something to a team to reach a goal. And for the team I just hope that every time we go out we feel like we can win, we compete to win. And it doesn’t matter the competition whether it’s against the worst team in the league or one the best in the EuroLeague. I just hope that every time we step on the floor we know we have the chance to win the game, not thinking we’ll see, any time we step on the floor we go out to win. If we do that it’s all I can ask for”.