One of the top priorities on Michigan's basketball recruiting board for the 2017 class was point guard. Landing a front line prospect at that position on the heels of nabbing four-star floor general Xavier Simpson last year was going to be difficult, but it appears the Wolverines have just done so... even if the star rankings don’t yet indicate it.
Spring Grove (Pa.) lead guard Eli Brooks committed to the Maize & Blue Tuesday night over offers from Villanova, Ohio State, and a host of others. That John Beilein & company beat out the national champs definitely comes as a surprise to many recruiting observers.
“(Villanova) was his dream school ever since he was a little boy,” said Brooks’ AAU coach Tony Sagona. “He just felt a better feeling about Michigan. He really loved Coach Beilein.”
Brooks is coming off a junior campaign where he averaged 25 points per game and led his team to its first league title since 1971. Despite that he flew under the recruiting radar because his AAU team, The New Jersey Shore Warriors, isn’t sponsored by one of the major shoe companies and plays in mostly regional tournaments. Word his talent still spread though. That's because the Warriors have had their share of big time ball players in the past. So when Sagona called his coaching connections to tell them he had another one in Brooks, they listened.
“(Brooks is a) character kid,” said Sagona. “He is tremendously happy with his choice. He is ecstatic about his choice. I just think that he is a great character kid and he is a great player. We’ve had some really good players come through our program… Matty Carroll (Notre Dame, 10 years in the NBA), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame, 12 years in the NBA), Kyle McAlarney (Notre Dame, current Euro League player), Darrun Hilliard (Villanova and the Detroit Pistons)… he is right up there with those guys.”
What had the coaches buzzing most about Brooks is ability to score, but desire to get others involved first. In other words he is the quintessential pass first, shoot second point guard.
“He has a great control of the game,” Sagona said. “He does nothing that he shouldn’t do as a point guard. No extra dribbles, no toying with the ball, goes by people, plays defense, can shoot… tremendously athletic.”
Brooks’ father and high school coach James Brooks agrees.
"Eli is a point guard who can distribute the basketball and knock down jump shots," the elder Brooks told Scout.com last week. "Last year he had a great season for us. He had over 700 points, hit 79 3-pointers, over 150 rebounds, and he led us in assists.”
"At that point he had 10 or 11 offers mainly from schools in the Patriot or Ivy League… and then after the season he started to add offers from the A-10 schools. With his play in AAU he's now started to generate looks from BIG 10 and ACC schools and he's picked up a couple of high major offers as well."
Michigan was obviously one of those high major schools. Recent scouting by the Wolverines prompted them to pull the trigger. Brooks acceptance of that offer largely the product of being blown away during his first ever trip to Ann Arbor.
“He picked up the offer probably about two weeks ago,” said Sagona. “He was up there a month ago and he loved the school, loved Coach Beilein. I’ve known coach a long time. I’ve been doing this 35 years, so I’ve had dealing with coach… his honesty, his integrity, and his reputation. Also his assistant coach (Billy Donlon) did a great job. "
Donlon was the point man in Michigan’s pursuit of the rising floor general and fend off a rising tide of major recruiting attention to help secure Brooks pledge. According to Sagona that was no small feat.
“(Michigan) had competition,” stated Sagona. “Villanaova, North Carlina State… many of the A-10 schools (like) Temple… and there were going to be more. We have another tournament this week. There would have been more coaches there, so his stock was rising.”
“(Michigan) got a really great player. They got a really great player.”null