Feature photo courtesy of Sam McCou.
Houston. H-Town. Clutch City. Whatever you call it, Houston was once one of the most important cities in the hoops world.
In the early 1980s, the University of Houston was a force to be reckoned with in college basketball as Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler led the Cougars to two consecutive Final Fours in 1982 and 1983. The next decade, Olajuwon continued his stretch of dominance in the city, ultimately leading the Houston Rockets to consecutive championships in 1994 and 1995 (the second of which came with Drexler by his side once again) in Michael Jordan’s absence from the NBA.
All of this does not go unnoticed by three-star shooting guard (Yahoo.com) and Houston signee Armoni Brooks of McNeil High School in Round Rock, Texas. Brooks is well aware of the legacy that these two NBA Hall of Famers left before him and he dubbed it as a key reason for his signing with the Cougars earlier this fall.
He takes his role in restoring the university’s basketball program to heart. “I feel like I’m playing to get the program back to where it used to be with Hakeem and Clyde there. They had a couple good runs in the tournament and I want to get back to that.”
Brooks is well versed in Houston’s rich history, recalling Elvin Hayes’ time with the school as well. “The Game of The Century definitely sticks out to me. I’m playing for a lot of history here.”
This decorated past of Houston is just one of several factors that keep Brooks grounded, despite growing up in football and baseball-obsessed Texas. His paying homage to those before him goes hand in hand with his abilities on the court; he is a student of the game first and foremost.
“I just really love [basketball]. It’s something that I enjoy watching. If you can watch it, you can play it- that’s the way I look at it,” he says earnestly. And he’s certainly been watching basketball intently for quite some time.
“My dad played basketball and he would always take me to the gym. I loved to watch him and I guess I just wanted to ball. I started playing seriously at about age seven and really loved it and realized that’s what I wanted to do,” he quips. Like many basketball greats, Brooks’ attention to detail from a young age has been a key component in his development.
Pair that with the advice of his coaches and parents who tell him to “fight everyday, don’t settle, don’t be satisfied, and try to be the best player ever” and it is no wonder why Brooks shines as he does.
He feels that he can “score from almost anywhere on the court” which has proven to be his biggest asset. This knack for scoring has given him a very defined role on the basketball court and has only helped him in his relationship with his future coach at Houston, Kelvin Sampson.
Sampson, Brooks says, “calls [him] almost every two days. He wants me to come in and be an instant scorer and help the team in my freshman year.”
The duo’s closeness has been a boon to Brooks in his senior season and, if their relationship remains as such, it will likely prove beneficial in the shooting guard’s time at Houston. Brooks candidly describes his relationship with Sampson, “He asks me how I’m doing. It’s not even just about basketball; it’s about life in general- just seeing how my grades are. He genuinely cares about me.”
The two have been on the same page for a while, which is why Brooks was so eager to sign with Houston early in the recruiting process. He has certainly reaped the benefits of that decision too, as he feels “pretty secure knowing that [he’s] going to school next year and [doesn’t] have to worry about losing that scholarship unless something tragic happens.”
He sympathizes with some of his counterparts that have yet to sign as they “have a lot of pressure to go out and score 50 points a game to get schools to look at them. They also have the risk of injury, which can cause schools to lose interest.”
Brooks’ security for next year allows him to play comfortably and within himself, developing naturally as is necessary as opposed to playing ‘hero-ball,’ a style that is not conducive at all to team success at the college level.
He acknowledges, “My biggest weakness is probably, just my physical strength. I’m not very strong, I have to put a little bit more weight on me, a little more strength and then I feel I’ll be ready.” However, he is voluntarily choosing to put on more weight, rather than doing so in response to a lack of offers or options for college as recruits often do.
Brooks’ is an interesting story indeed and, should he continue to be as meticulous as he is now, his transition to Houston will be much easier than it otherwise would have been.