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Friday, November 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Full speed ahead for Huskies' Brockman

Seattle Times staff columnist

Jon Brockman lost. For as far back as he can remember he lost — every day, almost every game.

He lost to his older brother, Paul, in their Snohomish basement when they played full-contact Nerf basketball. He lost in the backyard when he played games of 21 against Paul and older sister Kirsten.

He lost when he and his brother played one-on-one in games so fierce you would have thought the rights to the remote were hanging in the balance.

Wonder where Jon Brockman developed his unquenchable desire to compete? Wonder where that indefatigable, pit-bull ethic was born? Wonder how the Washington freshman forward learned the value of hard work?

It all came from the poundings he took from his brother and his sister in the family games that were played as hard as Final Fours.

"Me and my brother would play every day, multiple times, just in the backyard on our little hoop," Brockman said earlier this week. "I think I've only beaten him twice in my life. That's just how it was. He was just always beating me. Beat me at everything.

"I couldn't stand it. So it kind of resorted to a 'I've got to play as hard as I can. Work as hard as I can. Go as hard as I can at all times. Because as soon as I let up, I know him or my sister is going to beat me.' "

Today

UW men vs. Loyola Marymount @ Edmundson Pavilion, 3:30 p.m., FSN

Paul Brockman and Kirsten Brockman were very good players whose careers were muted by injuries. Paul played briefly at Seattle Pacific and now is at Bellevue Community College. Kirsten played two frustrating seasons at Washington.

Now Jon is the family's blue-chipper. He was a McDonald's All-American who chose Washington over Duke.

Brockman, along with Duke's Josh McRoberts, Kansas' Julian Wright, Louisiana State's Tasmin Mitchell and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, is one of the top five of a very talented national freshman class.

Playing against him is a perfect misery. Brockman is relentless, like a fire alarm that won't shut off.

Want another reason why he plays so hard, every practice, play and game? He is playing for Paul and Kirsten. He is trying to make up for all the injuries that darkened their once-bright futures.

"My sister, sometimes she'll say to me, 'Now you've got to get it done,' " said Brockman, whose team plays at home at 3:30 today against Loyola-Marymount. "I think it's fun for her to come and see me playing in the game. Just because of injuries, she wasn't able to do that and she really wanted to.

"It's kind of a whole family deal. I know everyone really enjoys the game, but at the same time, as soon as I'm doing something wrong, I'm hearing about it from my sister. I don't know what it is, but her voice I can always hear on the court."

To focus solely on Brockman's work habits is to ignore his skills. The uninitiated sometimes compare his game to former Stanford forward Mark Madsen's, which is a joke.

Watch Brockman's James Worthy-like quick-spin move on the baseline. Watch him run the floor and surely catch a pass in full stride. Watch him rise way over the rim for rebound after rebound.

After five college games, Brockman is the undefeated Huskies' second-leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points in Washington's egalitarian offense. He is their leading rebounder, with an 8.4 average, and was the MVP of the Black Coaches Association Classic hosted by the Huskies.

"People always say to me that Jon is not the great, supreme athlete," said Jim Marsh, a hoop mentor and former AAU coach with Friends of Hoop. "To them I say, put two marks about four inches below his wrist, and then watch every time he goes to the board — which is not 75 or 80 times out of 100, but 100 out of 100.

"Now, remember he's 6 feet 7. Both of those wrists are above the rim where those marks are. And oh, by the way, he's a two-footed jumper in a crowd, which means he doesn't need a half-step to run. He doesn't need a clear path. He goes up, in a crowd, above the rim and pulls it down. Those wrists get above the rim, every possession, 100 out of 100."

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has said that players with Brockman's combination of heart and game come along about once a decade.

"A gift of Jon's is his maturity," Marsh said. "It's so evident in the way he plays. Look at the turnovers he doesn't have. Look at the bad passes he doesn't make. He just makes very few mistakes."

Brockman is a key recruit in Romar's renewable program that will connect one Huskies NCAA team to another. From Will Conroy, Nate Robinson and Tre Simmons, to Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones, to Brockman and Justin Dentmon, to Brockman's good friend Spencer Hawes and the talented group coming into the program next year.

"It's the same thing every time you play with Jon," said Hawes, a former AAU teammate of Brockman's. "You're going up against someone who's playing harder than anyone else out there on the court. That, combined with his talent, makes it like you have to compete like it's the last game of your life, or he's just going to eat you alive."

Every player thinks he works hard. Nobody steps onto the floor and thinks, "I'm going to dog it today." But until you've played against a player like Brockman, or practiced with him, you don't really understand what hard work is about.

"At the end of last [2004] summer he went to work on his jumper," the 7-foot Hawes said. "I was having a hard enough time defending him anyway, then he went out and worked on the jumper. We played one day and he banged me a couple of times and got a couple of layups. Then I adjusted. Then he came out and hit about an 18-foot, step-back jumper. I threw my arms up and just said, 'I give up. I don't know what I'm going to do now.'

"People who just look at how hard he plays, they may think he's trying to compensate for something. Or he's making up for something in another area. That's not it at all. His hustle, his hard work, just complement the skill set this guy has."

It isn't that much of a stretch to believe that Brockman can be the next Nate Robinson; the player on the floor who can change the game with one house-shaking hustle play.

He is the next generation in a program that doesn't have to rebuild anymore. It only has to regenerate.

"As soon as you go to Duke, you've got the Duke name and that carries with you forever," Brockman said. "But in the decision I made to come here, I want people say, 'Wow, you went to Washington.' It was tough because Duke has a lot that it can throw at you, and Washington might not have that quite yet.

"The issue was, 'Do I turn down the name and a program that is legendary? Or do I help to make a program legendary, build something that's already started, but still has a lot more to climb?' That's what I chose."

One of the great joys of college sports is watching players grow. Brockman probably will play at Washington for four seasons. And the way he works, you only can imagine how good he will become.

"I only have one speed, I think," Brockman said. "There's only one way that I can go at it. I don't know what it is, but I'm just always going full speed."

It started in a basement in Snohomish. And every game Jon Brockman has played at full speed since is a tribute to the lessons he learned at home from brother Paul and sister Kirsten.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/stevekelley

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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