Eli Brooks is a G League rookie with a clearer than most vision on how to find success on and off the court
P. Tyler Sinclair /March 29, 2023
An article by P. Tyler Sinclair
Meet Eli Brooks, Spring Grove Area High School (Pennsylvania) legend, NCAA Division 1 national finalist and University of Michigan’s most winning player all time… not your typical NBA G League rookie.
Brooks is the archetypal player that you want on your team. Hard-working, thirsty for knowledge, naturally humble and in his own words “a really personable person.”
From a young age, Brooks was entranced with the world of basketball, having his father James coach his high school basketball team in Spring Grove.
James was a well-respected man in the town of Spring Grove, Brooks even joked that if his father were to run for mayor of the town he would’ve won unanimously. James was known for the whole-hearted way in which he treated the people around him. From the way he interacted with his team and coaching staff to the way he treated the fans after every game, James taught his son from a young age that basketball is bigger than the court, it’s about interacting and connecting with those around you.
“Just the way he carried himself, the way he interacted with his teammates, the way he interacts with fans, I think that's the biggest thing I took away. Just the way that he treated people,” Brooks stated while describing his father.
Brooks adopted this whole-hearted mindset that was passed down to him from his father and he still uses the same mindset while interacting with people to this day.
“I think it made me… it made me think about how I carried myself, on and off the court… how many little kids looked up to me. At Spring Grove after the games, you would have a lot of people that want autographs. So just keeping that in the back of my head, how to portray [myself] and inspire the younger kids in my community,” Brooks said.
Brooks left Spring Grove Area High School as the all-time leading scorer with 2,426 career points and in 2017 decided to take his talent to the University of Michigan.
Brooks spent the next five years in Ann Arbor securing his name as a legend with the team.
In his time at Michigan, Brooks helped lead the Wolverines to four straight NCAA Sweet 16s (’18, ’19, ’21, ’22), two NCAA Elite Eights (’18, ’21), and a Final Four and National Title Game appearance in 2018.
Furthermore, he helped the Wolverines win the Big Ten tournament title in 2018 and the Big Ten regular season title in 2021. On top of all this, Brooks was also the captain of the Wolverines in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons and received both an All-Big Ten honorable mention and All-Big Ten Sportsmanship Honoree award, in 2022. And if all of this wasn’t impressive enough, as mentioned previously, Brooks holds the record for most wins all time by a Wolverine with 124.
Even with all these impressive achievements under his belt, Brooks still humbly mentions that he had an advantage over all the past Wolverine legends as Michigan’s most winning player ever, in that he was awarded an additional fifth year of play with the 2020 season being cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I always tell people I did it five years, not in four, like most people. It's still great. It's still a great title to have, especially at a program like Michigan, they’ve had so many great people… players and people that came through, to hold the title there, it means a lot,” Brooks stated.
Brooks spoke to the fact that his decision to go to the University of Michigan in 2017 had deeper roots beyond just the fact that Michigan was coming off a Big Ten Tournament Title.
Brooks enjoyed the campus, the lifestyle and most importantly the people that were around him at Michigan. Brooks spoke out specifically on his coaches Juwan Howard and Phil Martelli. Referencing Martelli as being “my guy when I was there” and describing Howard as “an open door kind of guy.”
Brooks talked about how even since moving on from Michigan, Howard still sends him motivational texts on a regular basis.
This supportive and relationship based system of interaction on the court that Brooks has experienced since his days in Spring Grove is something that he has brought to the Mad Ants this season as he adjusts to life as a professional basketball player.
In his evolution through basketball, Brooks has consistently been looked at as both a mentor and leader for his squads. However, this season as a rookie in the G League, Brooks has been looking for both leadership and mentorship from some of the veterans on his squad that know what it takes to get to that next level.
“I’m Just trying to take in as much advice from the veteran guys that are on the team like Gabe [York], Justin [Anderson], Elfrid [Payton]. People that have been in a position where I want to go, so it's more just like trying to obtain as much knowledge as I possibly can,” Brooks stated.
Brooks spoke to the fact that one of the hardest parts about adapting to the professional basketball player lifestyle, is finding mental focus and not getting drained by the sport itself. When asked if it’s been hard adapting to the constant travel and practice schedule of the G League as compared to NCAA basketball, Brooks had this to say:
“I mean, it's a lot different. You don’t have classes. So, you have a lot of downtime actually. So there's a lot more free time, being a professional player as opposed to in college.”
Brooks followed this up by saying he tends to free his mind from basketball by keeping up with his bowling, his golf game and spending quality time with his girlfriend and two dogs.
“You know, when I’m busy, I continue to grow as a person who does not get drained by basketball. You got to find something outside. Be able to keep up with your time,” Brooks stated.
Brooks also explained how even though he grew up Christian, he has been a practicing Buddhist since his sophomore year at Michigan. He attributes meditation and different mental exercises that he practices as a leading factor that has helped him overcome the challenge of staying mentally focused as an athlete.
“Focus is the thing that I struggle with the most, just getting used to letting your mind wander and trying to control your mind a little bit… Before games in the hotel room, I take time just to clear my mind and just kind of sit there and just let the thoughts come to me. It helps me relax,” Brooks stated.
Even though Brooks puts time, passion and pride into his spirituality, athleticism and loved ones, Brooks also finds time to put in work as a philanthropist.
Brooks has recently partnered with Inch & Co construction under his LLC Realized Sports, to commence the construction of a sports complex back in Spring Grove.
“The plan is to be able to run an AAU team out of that facility. Run workouts and camps out of that facility,” Brooks stated.
Brooks was also involved in a community fundraiser this past summer in which they handed out free basketball shoes to underprivileged youth, trying to promote athleticism in his community. However, both his partnership with Inch & Co and his fundraiser last summer were not his first experiences with philanthropy as it actually all started from a young age in which he was taught to give back to the less fortunate by his mother, Kelly.
“Well, I always gave back to the communities… we would go and feed the homeless, give out toys and that kind of stuff. So, it starts with my mom. She's very kind, very giving. Didn't really have much to give but she's always there to give for others,” Brooks stated.
Brooks went on to say that he wants to continue to give back to the community as he evolves throughout his career and even gave insight into a specialized and more personal mentorship training program that he wants to establish for upcoming youth basketball players.
“I feel like there's a lot of trainers that are out there that don't really understand what it takes to get to the next level. Which is doing a lot of different things that don't seem to make sense, things that you don't see on the basketball court,” Brooks said.
Brooks feels as though the problem with youth development and mentorship is that it isn’t personal enough. Brooks has the dream to be able to handpick a select few youth players, take them under his wing and not only show them athletically what it takes to succeed but also the mental nuances that will follow them throughout life, and how they can put themselves on a path towards success.
Brooks is that whole-hearted, community-first player that has seen heaps of success in his life and is bound to have much more to come. However, at the end of the day, the things that Brooks holds most dear and true in his life is finding mental clarity by lending a helping hand to those around him.