It's chapter four of the BSD off-season player profile series, and inconsistency again rears it's ugly head in the form of Jeff Brooks, the talented forward Penn State fans have waited three years to live up to his potential. See previous profiles of Tim Frazier, David Jackson and Andrew Jones here, here and here respectively.
In many ways, the careers of Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones as Nittany Lions mirror each other in a lot of ways.
Both players showed flashes of brilliance in filling in for injured stars Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley at the end of the 2008 season and in fueling Penn State's run to an NIT Championship in 2009.
Both were expected to fill important roles in replacing Cornley permanently in the front court following his graduation, and at the very least, continue to grow their production within the new expanded roles.
While Brooks did improve statistically in 2010, and took a much bigger role in the offense than in previous seasons, his production was uneven, and in many of Penn State's most costly losses, Brooks showed a miraculous ability to disappear.
Above all else, that will have to improve for Penn State to make any kind of a splash in 2011.
Brooks opened the season strong, posting double figures in points in four of Penn State's first five games. Save for a small performance in the Lions' loss at Temple on December 5, Brooks was among Penn State's more consistent guys, even in disappointing losses to UNC-Wilmington and Tulane.
Then this happened.
Just flat out making fools of kids.
Brooks scored 14 points that night, December 8, against UMBC. He wouldn't see double figures for the next 15 games until he finally broke through for 12 at Northwestern on February 17. In nine of those 15, scored five or less.
Penn State certainly missed the production, too. In that 15 game span, Penn State won two basketball games against Gardner-Webb and American. The disappearing act found Brooks benched alongside Andrew Jones through portions of Penn State's 12-game losing streak to open conference play.
However, following his strong performance against Northwestern, Brooks found himself back in the regular starting lineup, and rode that confidence to scoring double figures for three of the final five regular season games, including solid nine point/four rebound and eight point/six rebound performances against Michigan and Ohio State respectively. The late surge fueled the Lions to wins in three of the final six regular season games, and impressive performances against league top dogs Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue.
The Good Things
-Coming on strong in February and March should give Brooks confidence heading into Big Ten play next season. He's already proven to himself that he can control the game against the lesser opponents on the non-conference slate. 2011 will be a matter of carrying that momentum through to the league schedule from the get-go.
-Brooks remains Penn State's best blend of size and touch. He can attack the basket, but he also has a respectable jumper for a bigger guy, making him a threat from all spots on the court. Think Sam Young of Pitt if it all comes together (though Young saw a lot of time at the three spot for the Panthers, while Brooks plays mostly at the four for Penn State). He has the tools to be Penn State's best player at times if he wants to be.
The Bad Things
-Brooks was a classic case of feast or famine in 2010. He either played really well, or really bad. Rarely was there a middle ground where he'd finish in the 7-10 point range on his bad nights. More often than not, if Brooks was off, he was off in a big way, contributing almost nothing offensively and dooming the Lions numerous times last year.
-Brooks is the most visibly rattled player on the team when things aren't going well. While it'd be fair to say most of the guys struggle from lack of confidence at times, Brooks wears his struggles on his sleeve. He has a bad habit of moping or huffing and puffing for the cameras when he screws up, and it reflects itself not only on television, but in the box score later on. If Brooks lets his problems get to him in 2011, Penn State's season will be sunk before it leaves the harbor in November.
-As with Andrew Jones, Brooks needs to make more of an effort on the glass this upcoming season to take pressure off of Talor Battle and the guards. His 4.2 rebound per game average in 2010 really isn't cutting it for a 6'8" forward starting in the power forward slot and getting extended minutes.
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