Nov. 5, 2003
By Simit Shah –
Robert Brooks is a thinker.
You might not be able to imagine his 6-foot-8, 210-pound frame in Rodin’s famous sculpted pose, but then again, the senior forward likes to defy convention.
“It feels good when people find out that there’s more to me that just basketball,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to be considered the stereotypical athlete. I don’t want to be put in that box and limited to being just a basketball player.”
“I think most of our guys are multi-dimensional, but Robert takes it to another level,” head coach Paul Hewitt noted, alluding to Brooks’ pursuits off the court that include art and poetry.
A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Brooks’ interest in art began at a young age. “I’ve been drawing ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon,” he related.
No one else in his family is artistically inclined, but his fascination led him to participate in a special program as he got older. Part of his school day was spent at a center devoted to arts and sciences. There he studied two and three-dimensional art, as well as sculpting.
Brooks and his best friend often competed against each other, but he began to devote less time to art as his commitment to basketball increased during high school.
These days, he draws when inspiration hits him. “I can’t just sit down and start drawing. I’ll usually see something and then think about drawing it. Sometimes it’s just to test myself to see if I can do it,” he said as he flipped through several pencil sketches.
One depicts a basketball player crouched with his arms outstretched like an eagle about to take flight. Carefully crafted letters of the Chinese alphabet adorn the top of the picture. Another shows an intricate silhouette of a Dru Hill CD cover.
Then there’s the thinking.
“I think way too much,” he said laughing. “Coach tells me that. My teammates tell me that. Just about anyone that knows me would say that I think way too much, especially for my age.”
“Oh, boy does he ever,” added a smiling Coach Hewitt. “On the court, that’s one of the things that has made him less effective than he’s capable of being. That’s not always a negative. It shows that he’s concerned about his teammates, instead of playing and let things happen naturally.”
Brooks, a Management major and a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, usually carries a notebook with him to record his thoughts. Sometimes they are questions, other times quotes or ideas.
“I write down a lot of things,” he explained. “When I hear something profound, I want to remember it. It might be from a teacher, coach or just someone on the street. I might use it in a poem later.”
Brooks has shared some of his work at open mic poetry readings organized by Tech fraternities and sororities. He’s a regular at these gatherings, and others often ask him to perform their poetry.
His unique personality, along with his hobbies, leads to a lot of good-natured ribbing from his teammates and coaches. Even his mode of transportation, an enormous old Chevy Silverado dubbed the “Purple Stinger” by teammate Marvin Lewis, contributes to his inimitable image.
“It’s like before they understood how to make a cool-looking SUV,” joked Hewitt. “It’s from before the SUV became hip.
“He was born way too late. He should have been around in the 60’s or 70’s. He’s definitely old school. I can see Robert with a fro and the multi-colored beads.”
As a freshman and sophomore, Brooks saw significant action, averaging over 10 minutes per game. The arrival of Bosh and Theodis Tarver limited his playing time last year, but Brooks will need to emerge as a key frontcourt performer in order to fill the void left by Bosh and Nelson.
“He’s going to have a tremendous opportunity to play much like his freshman season,” said Hewitt. “He was a big part of us making the NCAA Tournament that year. He was one of the two big buys coming off the bench, and he did a great job for us.”
A preseason injury to Tarver has shifted a greater burden on Brooks, but he feels that he’s up to the challenge this season, which tips off with exhibition games Thursday and Monday before the NIT Tournament first round on Nov. 18.
“I know what I have to do,” he said. “The starter’s spot is up for grabs. My performance in practice and the preseason is going to determine my playing time.”