Devin Brooks plays basketball with more than a dash of flair.
“My game has a lot of spiciness to it,” the Creighton junior guard said.
Therein rests the challenge for Greg McDermott. The Creighton coach must find an on-court middle ground to assure that Brooks is inducing indigestion in opponents and not the Bluejays' coaching staff.
McDermott doesn't want to take away the sizzle that gives the 6-foot-2 New Yorker the potential to do special things on the court. Creighton fans witnessed some of that during Friday's exhibition game against Northern State as Brooks dished out seven assists — several that bordered on the spectacular — to go with six points.
At the same time, McDermott knows it's a fine line between playing with control and without. Keeping Brooks on the right side of that line will benefit both the player and the team.
“We understood who Devin was when we recruited him,” McDermott said. “We knew he had the ability to get into the paint, and he has unbelievable vision. Now we just have to get him to make the simple play.”
Brooks must also develop a discipline on defense that lets him use his quickness and instincts without jeopardizing the team's master plan.
It's a process, McDermott said, that requires patience on his part, as well as Brooks' willingness to adjust his game to fit the system.
“We're teaching him to play a different way than he has played before,” McDermott said after the exhibition. “More than likely, he's always been one of the leading scorers on his team and he's taken the most shots.
“Now, we're asking him to play a different role and get his teammates involved. He's adjusted well, and this was a good, positive step. We'll build on it and continue to learn from it.”
Brooks played 15 minutes in the exhibition. He made all three of his shots, one of which came after a shifty drive through the lane. Another came after he grabbed an offensive rebound, a talent he has been exhibiting since Creighton started practice in late September.
It was Brooks' passing against Northern State that proved to be the most entertaining part of his game. He set up Doug McDermott for a 3-pointer with a behind-the-back, left-handed, cross-court pass. He found Zach Hanson for a layup with a no-look bounce pass from the foul line.
Brooks' best pass might have come when, sprinting full speed on a break, he threaded a one-handed bounce pass past a defender to Hanson, who was fouled before he could convert an easy layup.
“Devin is really gifted with his vision,” said guard Grant Gibbs, no slouch himself in that area. “He brings a different dynamic when he's out there.”
Doug McDermott complimented Brooks for showing more restraint in the game than his teammates have sometimes seen in practice.
“Devin made some really good plays,” Doug McDermott said. “At times he tries to do too much, but he kept it simple and made some really good passes.”
Brooks averaged almost six assists a game as a sophomore last season at Iowa Western Community College. He also averaged 15.9 points and 6.6 rebounds while earning third-team junior college All-America honors.
Brooks knows there are changes he must make to his game, but he sees them as being more minor than major.
“I can still play my game within our system,” he said. “It's not hard adjusting. And guys are going to crowd Doug and Ethan Wragge, and that allows me to penetrate easier.
“When they collapse on me, it allows the shooters to be open. My game fits this style perfectly.”