Oregon Ducks junior forward Dillon Brooks was named to The Associated Press’ preseason All-America team, becoming the first player on it in school history. After coming off a sophomore campaign where he averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists, Brooks became an established prospect. Leading the University of Oregon to an Elite Eight appearance last year, he would later seek advice on whether to go the NBA or stay with the Ducks for another season. His ability to shoot outside, post-up inside and play both ends of the floor made him unique as a player, and would also make him equally intriguing in the NBA. But ultimately, he decided it would be best to stay in school for another season.
A dynamic player, Brooks would start this season injured with a surgically repaired foot. There was some doubt as to when he’d return and his status for the early parts of this season. After a long rehabilitation process, the Ducks were pretty tight-lipped about his status for the upcoming season. He would go on to miss the first three games of this season but would come back in a limited capacity against Georgetown in the Ducks’ fourth game.
Originally on a minutes restriction, Brooks has started to show why he was the Ducks’ most valuable player. Since his return, the Ducks are 6-1 and are starting to look like the team everyone picked to get to the Final Four. After having three consecutive double-digit scoring nights, Brooks is starting to see his minutes increase as he gets back to full strength. While he’s probably not 100 percent, the Canadian-born Brooks is working hard on all aspects of his game and is ignoring some bad advice he received from a teacher years ago.
“In my life, I always wanted to be the same as everyone,” Brooks told Basketball Insiders. “It was because one of my teachers always thought that (being different) was deviant. But with basketball and my personal work ethic, I’m always working hard at everything I do to prove them wrong.”
Brooks seems to have a good understanding of who he is, what his strengths are and what he needs to keep working on. Beyond being a hard worker on the court, Brooks is also doing the small things off the court to ensure that he maximizes his potential.
“What separates me from other players is that I’m the hardest working,” Brooks said. “I want to work on my craft every day and try to learn everything. Off the court, I’m working with my body and nutrition so I have more energy in the game or in practice to get better. On the court, I am a wing who can guard 1-4 and can score on every level. I also have good vision and knowledge of the game, which allows me to change and make big plays. I feel like I’m already a good two-way player that’s building to be a great one.”
Brooks is averaging 17.6 points in only 21 minutes over his last three games. While he still isn’t playing as much as he did last year, he’s putting up efficient numbers and is clearly starting to find a rhythm. Despite being known as primarily a scorer, Brooks does a lot more on the court than just putting points on the board. His creativity with the ball and his rebounding skills are underrated and he should continue to improve as he gains more experience.
Beyond his talents on the court, Brooks has a good sense of perspective and is thankful to those who have helped him along the way.
“I’ve had a lot of people in my life to thank for my success,” Brooks said. “My dream is to play in the NBA and play in the league for a long time. I want to be known as a team player and someone who does everything to win.”
With a diverse skill set and versatility on both ends of the court, Brooks has thrived in Ducks head coach Dana Altman’s system. But the best parts of Brooks’ game may be his basketball IQ and team-first mentality. This season, when Brooks has struggled from the field, he’s found other ways to impact the game to the benefit of his team. Whether it’s rebounding, providing an outlet pass or getting defensive stops, Brooks has consistently found ways to make a positive impact for his team. His bottom line is winning and his second is staying true to who he is.
“I’m always trying to progress in everything that I do,” Brooks told Basketball Insiders. “I’m really focusing on becoming a better ball-handler, shooter and defender. I really want to defend all of the positions on the floor so that I can switch and rotate more effectively.”
Brooks’ unique size and skill set make it difficult to compare him to a typical NBA player, which may not be a bad thing. As the league continues to move towards position-less basketball, where players like Draymond Green can impact a game in a multitude of ways, Brooks could be seen as a high-value commodity. While he isn’t on Green’s level in terms of defense, his offensive game, stature and size are similar to that of the Golden State Warriors’ forward.
Brooks’ averages may not compare to some of the elite prospects, but often times he makes plays on the court that don’t necessarily show up in the box score. In college, Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game and Green averaged 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 33.2 minutes per game. Both of these players didn’t jump off the college basketball statistics scale, but teams saw their respective skill sets, positive impact on the court and their potential to keep improving moving forward (though Green notably dropped to the second-round). Both ended up flourishing, becoming some of the most versatile big men currently in the NBA.
So while the college season has just begun and it’s yet to be determined what Brooks will do after the season, you can bet that NBA teams are keeping an eye on his progress. As long as he continues to work hard on his game, play with a team-first mentality and stays healthy, he should generate a lot of attention from any team that is looking to add a versatile player that can guard multiple positions and impact the game in a variety of ways.
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