This article appears in the March 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
The Main Event in Las Vegas is one of the premier AAU basketball tournaments in the country every summer. It's also the kind of tournament that gives new meaning to the word "grueling."
Not only does it feature the nation's top AAU programs, but as teams continue to advance to the event's later rounds, they have to play several games with little rest, including five on the final day of the championship round.
Only teams that are both relentless and talented survive. So it's no surprise that last year's champ was Seattle-based Friends of Hoop, which featured perhaps the toughest player in the country in Snohomish senior Jon Brockman, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound power forward.
Brockman and fellow local studs Martell Webster (Seattle Prep), Micah Downs (Juanita), Mitch Johnson (O'Dea) and Spencer Hawes (Seattle Prep) steamrolled through the competition, beating Baltimore's Cecil Kirk AAU program, 87-59, in the title game.
"That was the toughest tournament I've ever been in because I was so tired and you had to get up for every game," says Brockman, who is rated the No. 6 power forward and No. 24 overall recruit in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com. "It really didn't hit home until after, when we were at the hotel."
While Webster and Downs were more well known in recruiting circles coming into the tournament, it was Brockman who pushed himself to the forefront by playing the only way he knows how — hard.
"The last two summers he has distinguished himself as the very best big man in the country, period," says Friends of Hoop coach Jim Marsh. "The reason is because he plays every possession like a maniac. He never gives up anything. He's a beast, that's all you can say."
Brockman traces his toughness and relentless style of play to backyard one-on-one battles with his older brother, Paul. The two would battle every day when they were younger with Paul, a swingman who is a year older than Jon, often coming out on top thanks to his sweet stroke from the perimeter. Although he would get frustrated from losing, Jon would never quit.
"I always wanted to get better just to beat him," says Jon. "That was my only motivation when I was younger."
While the games were intense, Jon and Paul enjoyed playing together and hoped to one day lead Snohomish to a state title.
That hope appeared to be a distinct possibility last year. As a senior, Paul was coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game. Jon, meanwhile, was coming off a sophomore effort in which he posted 18 points and 11 rebounds per game as Snohomish went 22-4 overall and advanced to the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
Everything seemed aligned for the Panthers until Paul, who is redshirting as a freshman at Seattle Pacific this year, went down with an ACL tear in September and was forced to miss the entire season.
"That was definitely a wakeup call that anything can happen at any time," says Jon. "So you play every minute like it's your last."
"He told me a couple of times that you just never know," adds Snohomish ninth-year head coach Len Bone, who played with Jon's father, Gordy, at Seattle Pacific. "The present time is what you have, and you've got to take advantage of it."
Without Paul's perimeter shooting taking pressure off of him down low, Jon was faced with frequent double- and triple-teams last season.
But instead of complaining, the younger Brockman went out and dominated to the tune of 22.2 points and 13 rebounds per game to earn All-Area first team and All-State second team honors from The Seattle Times. Snohomish went 16-8 overall but missed the state tournament despite Brockman's inspiring play.
"Jon can always walk off the floor knowing that he gave a great effort," says Bone. "That's important to him. That's something you can control as a player. He doesn't like to go halfway."
Brockman's blue-collar game attracted interest from many of the nation's top college programs, especially after his rousing performance at The Main Event. He narrowed his choices down to Washington, Duke and UCLA before eventually choosing the local Huskies over national power Duke.
While the Blue Devils have been arguably the nation's top team during the past 15 years, Washington presented opportunities that Brockman found hard to pass up.
"The fact that it was close to home was one of the reasons, and there is also a lot of momentum with the program," he says. "The atmosphere around Seattle is growing towards the program. The games are all sold out. People are telling me they're excited about next year. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon."
Duke's loss is Washington's gain. Brockman's signing gives the Huskies three SchoolSports.com Top 100 recruits from the Class of 2005. Webster and Toledo power forward Artem Wallace are the others.
Brockman is excited about joining the Huskies next fall, but he's currently focused on leading Snohomish back to the state tournament. As of press time, he was destroying opponents with averages of 29.4 points and 14 boards per game while leading Snohomish to an 11-5 record.
All this despite being the focal point of opposing defenses. His tough play coupled with his tremendous character and work ethic explain why Marsh and Bone have nothing but high praise for Brockman.
"In terms of everything combined, Jon ranks right up there with the best I've ever coached," says Marsh, who was an assistant coach at Utah when the Utes featured Tom Chambers and Danny Vranes, who were both top-10 picks in the 1981 NBA Draft.
"Jon is a great player, but he's also a sportsman," says Bone. "He's really a mature, classy person. I've had opposing coaches as well as referees say how impressed they are by his character. You take his physical style of play and combine it with his character, and you've got something special."