Brandon Brooks was a special player. As a sophomore at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon he once had back-to-back 60 and 58 point games. If you're wondering about the level of competition, in the first game he was guarded by Salim Stoudamire, who would end up in the NBA. Local hoops guru Howard Avery (who would go to jail many years later for abusing children) said that “Brandon Brooks could play in the Pac-10 right now [as a sophomore in HS]. He could start for the University of Oregon and be better than any guard they’ve got.”
Brooks was a 6-1 point guard who could play above the rim.
But then he did something that is increasingly common these days, but was somewhat rare when he was in school - he transferred across the city to Jefferson HS. At first there were eligibility issues. He didn't have the grades to play (his GPA was 1.0 when he transferred). But as a senior he did just enough in the classroom to get onto the court. Of course, people wondered how he possibly got his GPA up that quickly. A rival coach said "I kind of feel like this young man has figured a way around the system. The school board did what they could; other people have allowed him to filter around those rules."
Regardless, he played. And he led his team to an undefeated season and won the Oregon HS Championship in the highest division.
Coaches came from all over to watch him play. Hoop Scoop and CBS both had him ranked as a 5* top-25 player nationally. But the coaches backed away from him because of off-court issues. His talent wasn't in question. His head was. His handlers were. He wasn't serious in school. He was a potential liability.
He ended up committing to Arizona State over UCLA but couldn't qualify. So he went the JUCO route. He played a season at Indian Hills, then transferred to Compton and sat out a year. Still, even without playing that season, he was named the top JUCO point guard prospect in the nation.
He signed with USC, but his career didn't last long. 10 games in fact.
In his first year he dislocated his ankle and broke his fibula. The trainers said that he could return to form.
He didn't. He left the team. And he left school without graduating.
I had followed Brooks closely because I lived a few doors down from him in Portland. It was a basketball neighborhood, in a surprisingly good basketball town. Jefferson would later produce Aaron Miles, Thomas Gardner, Ime Udoka and Terrence Jones. Brandon Brooks should be on the list. He was as good as any of them.
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Which brings me to Josiah Turner.
I don't live in Portland anymore. Instead, I live north of Sacramento, which is where Turner played his high school ball. Like Brandon Brooks, Josiah Turner was a 5* point-guard recruit, and like Brooks he transferred high schools. Only Turner did it three times. And he struggled to stay eligible. He also - like Brooks - committed to Arizona State. But Turner backed out of that commitment and ultimately ended up at Arizona.
Arizona wasn't public about Turner's off-court problems as a freshman, but the issues were there. He was benched. He was suspended. He was suspended again.
Coach Miller said, "It's as much his choice as mine. I'm not telling any player on our team that he doesn't have the option to come back, but it's more about the path that Josiah wants to go from this point forward that will determine if he's at Arizona or whether he will choose to get a new beginning."
Josiah Turner chose to leave the program. How did he respond to his new beginning? He got arrested this weekend on suspicion of DUI.
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Recently, a local Portland weekly contacted Brandon Brooks' grandmother, asking about his whereabouts. She didn't say. She would only say that he was "living elsewhere."
Hopefully, years from now, people won't be saying the same about Josiah Turner. If he's going to get his act together, he needs to do it, and quick.