De’Mon Brooks hasn’t changed. His shoes have.
For four seasons Brooks has been a testament to Davidson red and black. At his audition Monday with the Charlotte Hornets, however, he wears gold high-tops with blue laces, a non-Davidson red Nike swoosh and a small black swoosh below the laces.
I don’t remember seeing those in the Southern Conference.
Brooks, 22, says he wore them – at practice.
“Coach (Bob) McKillop wouldn’t let me play in them in games,” he says. “He was suspicious about the shoes.”
The NBA is suspicious about Brooks’ height. If he were 6-foot-10 he’d be a guaranteed first-round pick. He’s not. He’s a 6-7 collegiate power forward who will become a 6-7 small forward wherever he plays next.
Brooks, who starred at Hopewell High in Huntersville and was a four-year starter for Davidson, averaged 19 points last season, shot 58.6 percent from the field, hit 14 of 31 3-pointers and averaged 7.1 rebounds. He was the conference’s player of the year.
Brooks drove, hit mid-range jumpers and unleashed old-school Al Jefferson-like moves beneath the hoop. McKillop was right. Players who wear gold high-tops aren’t allowed to put on old-school moves.
Brooks knows he has to show potential employers he can play small forward. He also knows he won’t impress them by shooting a 22-foot jump shot every time he touches the ball.
“You can’t get out of your comfort zone,” he says.
Brooks says he knows what the NBA will demand.
“Coach McKillop ran his program like an NBA program,” he says. “Watching film, practicing, he’s prepared me for this whole process.”
Brooks has worked out for Dallas, Toronto and Phoenix, and has tryouts scheduled with Chicago and Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors. Curry, you’ll recall, played for Davidson.
Curry, in town for his charity golf classic, said, “De’Mon has good footwork for a big man, he can shoot, and he’s a great guy. Only question is what position he’ll play. But if you can play the game, they’ll find a place for you.”
Does a player from Davidson, which has 1,900 students, have a chance to make the NBA?
“Well, the one guy in San Francisco has done pretty well,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford says of Curry.
“People will say it’s an advantage to play in a certain system,” says Clifford. “I don’t think the system is nearly as important as the coach you play for. Were you forced to play a disciplined way on offense and on defense, were practices structured in a (disciplined) manner?
“I’ve known coach McKillop since he was at Long Island Lutheran. There’s no better coach at any level. He’s an amazing, amazing, basketball guy. So (Brooks) has been coached, and that’s a big advantage.”
I’ve enjoyed watching Brooks. He’s known outside of Charlotte, unfortunately, in part for a late turnover in a first-round NCAA loss two seasons ago to Marquette.
But, man, he was entertaining. He’s a superior athlete who became a superior player, and when the offense didn’t work, the Wildcats used a trick play: Get the ball to Brooks and get out of the way.
In the NBA, the trick will be to evolve.
“Where they’re at here today isn’t always an indication of where they’re going to end up,” says Clifford. “Look at all the guys in this league – Gary Neal, and we had David Wesley in Houston.”
Neal, a Hornets guard, played in Turkey, Spain, Italy and Spain again before reaching the NBA. Wesley, a former Hornet, began in the CBA.
“There are a lot of ways to get there,” says Clifford. “When you have to change positions maybe you have to change part of your offensive game. It doesn’t have to be by October. It can be two years from now.”
On Monday morning it’s unlikely that Brooks is thinking about 2016. He’s on the practice court of the team for which he grew up cheering, and he has a chance to show the Hornets who he is and what he can do.
“It’s a blessing,” Brooks says. “The stats speak for themselves. Not a lot of people have this opportunity. One door closes, another opens. Thank God this one was waiting for me.”