Devin Brooks grew up dreaming of playing for Big East powers such as Georgetown.
Now, the Creighton guard is getting an extra dose of satisfaction in beating teams such as the Hoyas, who never paid any attention to him in high school.
“The teams I’m playing against right now are the teams I always wanted to play on,” said Brooks, who grew up in the heart of Big East country in New York City. “They were the teams I looked up to.
“Now that I’m in a position where I’m beating those guys, it means a lot. It shows me how far I’ve come.”
Brooks continued to show progress in Saturday’s 76-63 victory against the Hoyas. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, had five assists and a steal. He also had three turnovers and missed a couple of defensive assignments, but that’s all part of what coach Greg McDermott has come to expect from Brooks.
The good in Brooks’ game, McDermott said, far outweighs the bad.
“Devin has never played the way we’re asking him to play,” McDermott said. “We’ve had to meet halfway on a lot of things. I have to allow him to be who he is but do it within the framework of what this team needs him to do.
“He’s moving closer to that every single day. Right now, I have to take the good with the bad. But compared to where this young man was Oct. 15 to where he is today, he’s made as much progress as anyone I’ve ever coached.”
Brooks came to Creighton after playing the past two seasons across the river for Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. He earned third-team junior college All-America honors last season when he averaged 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
In the recruiting process, McDermott and his staff liked the sizzle Brooks brought to the court. Like many junior college players, though, Brooks needed to add some substance to his game.
He also had to learn to play within a system that requires less freelancing on offense and more attention to detail on defense.
Brooks needed to learn to play with discipline.
“If I had to choose one word that shows the progress I’ve made, that word would be discipline,” Brooks said. “I think my discipline has improved immensely.
“It’s all about listening and realizing that every little thing matters. It can be a step, an inch, a half-inch. It all matters at this level.”
The struggles to master that concept have produced frustration for both sides.
“The coaches have been beyond hard on me,” Brooks said. “There are days when practice feels like boot camp. Beyond boot camp, really. But they’re doing it for my own good, and it’s all paying off.
“It might be hard when you’re in the moment, but it’s working in my favor.”
No Bluejay, including two-time All-American Doug McDermott, is immune to the criticism that comes with inconsistency in practice. At the same time, Brooks’ teammates have seen the special “attention” the coaches have directed his way.
“I’m sure there are times that Devin feels that the coaches are always ragging him,” forward Ethan Wragge said. “But there’s that old saying in basketball that if the coach stops yelling at you, he doesn’t care anymore.
“Devin just needs to respond, and he’s done a great job of that. He’s reached the point where he’s no longer new to what we expect from him, and for us to be the team we want to be, we’re going to need Dev. He’s an important part of what we do.”
Brooks ranks fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 8.3 points in Creighton’s first 20 games. His 4.2 rebounding average is third behind McDermott and Wragge, and he is chipping in three assists and almost a steal per game for a team playing beyond expectations in the first season in its new conference.
Heading into Tuesday’s home game against St. John’s, Creighton leads the Big East at 7-1. The Bluejays, who were picked third in the league’s preseason poll, have repeatedly answered questions about how they would hold up in a conference that was perceived to be tougher than the Missouri Valley.
Brooks has played a key role in Creighton’s success so far, but it hasn’t gone to his head when he’s talking to old friends back home.
“I don’t need to brag,” Brooks said. “Actions speak for themselves.”