Saturday, September 26, 2020

Column: With two huge commitments in a short span, Pierre Brooks II has slipped some minds, yikes

July 10, 2020
<p>MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo raises a hand to the crowd after the game against Michigan at Breslin Center on March 9, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 75-63.</p>

MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo raises a hand to the crowd after the game against Michigan at Breslin Center on March 9, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 75-63.

Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

With the landing of 2021’s No. 1 shooting guard in the form of five-star, Chicago-bred, Max Christie and the college basketball-altering decision of National Gatorade Player of the Year and highest touted high school prospect since LeBron James, Emoni Bates, in just the matter of a nine-day span, the Spartan’s first commit for their potential 2021 dynasty may have slipped some people’s minds. 

Yikes.

His name is Pierre Brooks II, and if his name was left out of any conversations prior, it won’t be for long. The four-star, combo guard is the No. 1 ranked player in the 2021 class in Michigan; landing just that in any recruiting class would be something that Head Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartan community could get excited about, but this is no normal recruiting class.

With Christie and Bates, who is at the center of attention to reclass to 2021 and the topic of debate on if he will ever step on the Breslin Center floor as a player, attention that should be on Brooks II has turned away toward his future teammates. That’s OK, but to draw attention back to Brooks II, there is no need to look far: His history and highlights are enough.

Brooks II is Detroit-bred, carrying on the Spartan guard lineage

Brooks II is Detroit-bred and follows a long line of great point guards to attend Michigan State as Detroit natives. Most recent point guard Cassius Winston and sophomore shooting guard Mark "Rocket" Watts aim at a similar trajectory. The lineage stretches further back to Keith Appling, Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas as some of the elite guards in Izzo’s era to come from Detroit.

There's no denying that, especially in guards at MSU, Detroit-bred Spartans have had the "it" factor.

Brooks has that “it” that Detroit can give a player, or rather a player can take from their surroundings. You can see it when he slashes through defenders and throws down a contested dunk during games, when he finishes through contact to secure an and-one opportunity, or when he pulls up from deep and drills a no-doubter in a defender's face.

There’s no specific way to describe “it,” but Brooks II has shown he has the grit and toughness that he needs to play with the blue-blood, outwork-you-mentality, Izzo-driven Spartans.

Brooks II has spent his high school career playing for his father at Detroit Douglass Academy and just minutes away from St. Cecilia’s Gym, the high school basketball mecca of Detroit, where he announced his commitment to Michigan State this past April.

Brooks II is a versatile scorer

In his junior season at Douglass Academy, the four-star recruit blossomed into a player that could finish at the rim but also showed volumes as a multifaceted-option, as someone who can shoot as well as he can slash.

“My best attribute I would say is either my shooting or my finishing at the rim,” Brooks II said to the Detroit Free Press following his commitment. “And what I need to work on, especially before I get up there, is my defensive awareness and just knowing where to be at all times on defense. You know coach Izzo is going to be on my head about that.”

Brooks II averaged 23 points per game, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals during his junior season. The performance earned him Associated Press All-State honors in Division 2 for the season that was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his All-State season, Brooks II scored 20-plus points in 17 games and two 30-point games and provided enough highlights for multiple reels.

His season bumped him up to 247composite rankings No.1 player in Michigan, No. 13 at his position nationally and No. 68 overall. 

His spot at No. 1 in the state is just one ahead of Jaden Akins, another 2021 four-star guard that MSU has offered and will be attending Ypsi Prep Academy, founded by Emoni Bates’ father Elgin Bates and new home to Emoni.

The fit is right; it’s time to dream

Brooks II, Bates and Christie.

The three names together spark endless potential and whisper a second national title for Izzo, which has eluded him for the past 20 years.

If you follow Izzo’s recruiting trail, it’d be hard to match a year to this bunch.

Brooks II and Christie will be entering an already loaded roster. Guard play could be led by senior Aaron Henry, if he stays, and senior Gabe Brown, with a more experienced and vetted Rocket Watts at the point, with a senior Foster Loyer and sophomore AJ Hoggard rotating into a lethal combo punch.

Despite what could be a loaded guard position, dependent on who remains on the roster, the pair's contribution could be immediate and their combined presence, instead of competing, would complement each other.

Both Brooks II and Christie are combo guards and versatile players, so it would be no surprise for Izzo to experiment with the 6-foot-6 Christie at the three, or the 6-foot-5 Brooks II. Each player moves fluidly, forming to the situation, so wherever they end up in year one, impact will follow.

The question of Emoni Bates playing for the Spartans will linger until it happens, or doesn’t. Whether that is in 2021, 2022 or never is hard to say for sure. Only Bates knows that.

The LeBron James-caliber high school prospect received comparisons to Kevin Durant at 15, as he stood at the center of Sports Illustrated a year ago. The hype around him is real and the talent surrounding him backs it up.

For the Spartans and their fans, it is easy to get excited for the immediate future: AJ Hoggard and Mady Sissoko join a roster that was on the brink of greatness prior to the coronavirus outbreak ending their season. But if they look just a little further down the line, they will see a recruiting class with a collective group talent unlike any Izzo has pulled in at the same time.

For now, the Spartans have a veteran group that could linger into 2021, a young, strong underclass ready to take the reins and an elite group on the horizon.

It may be time to dream of what might be, for Brooks II, for Christie, for Bates, for East Lansing. When you close your eyes, the first thing you should see are banners.



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