A Difficult Burden to Shoulder

Brooks can't help but wonder how Penn State's NCAA Tournament appearance might have turned out had he stayed healthy.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The official scorers may have missed it. But Jeff Brooks clearly remembers the blocked shot that ended his college career.

After spending most of the first half of Penn State's second-round NCAA Tournament game against Temple on the bench due to foul trouble, the 6-foot-8 senior was a bundle of energy to open the second period Thursday.

And when Owl center Lavoy Allen got free on the baseline, Brooks hedged over a bit. When Allen tried to score over Lion forward David Jackson, Brooks reacted quickly and swatted the ball away.

“I went to block the shot, and I got a good piece of it,” Brooks said. “But I only blocked it with my forearm. My hand got stuck on the backboard and jerked my arm out of socket.”

Brook on the last play of his college career.

It was the same shoulder (right) he dislocated in a game at Illinois Feb. 1, an injury that caused him to miss the following game (a home loss to Michigan) and then play the rest of the season with a brace.

Adding insult to injury: Brooks, who finished the season with 46 rejections, was not credited with a block on the play.

After the block that wasn't, he immediately fell to the floor. He got up and was whisked away by the team trainer and doctor to the locker room for testing.

“It took 12 seconds for them to pop it back into place,” Brooks said. “Then we talked a little bit. The doc tested my strength, to see where I was at. I wasn't strong enough. I wouldn't have been able to defend myself out there.”

His was outfitted with a sling and the shoulder was packed in ice. A season in which he averaged 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks was effectively put on ice, too.

Yet Brooks hustled back out to the bench, if only to offer moral support for his teammates.

“When you've been developed as an unselfish player, you put the team first,” he said. “So all I could do was talk to my guys, tell them to continue to do what you're doing, play hard, have fun.”

He was even spotted dancing during a timeout, in an attempt to keep the mood light during an intense game.

Penn State trailed 35-33 at the half and lost 66-64 on a buzzer-beater by the Owls. Meaning even without their second-leading scorer (not to mention top rebounder and shot-blocker), the Lions played Temple to a dead heat in the second half.

Brooks logged only 10 minutes in the game, scoring six points, including an impressive follow dunk off a Jackson miss. So while he was proud of how well the Lions played in his absence, he also could not help thinking what might have been.

His breakout senior season, one in which many viewed him as the most improved player in the Big Ten, ended in heartbreak and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Individually, I just felt kind of bad in the way of it was sort of my fault that I got hurt,” Brooks said. “I would have been able to help.”


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