Jon Brockman: One tough dawg
on Brockman was in the first grade, sitting in the back of the family car as it passed by Husky Stadium. "Someday," he told his dad, Gordy...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jon Brockman was in the first grade, sitting in the back of the family car as it passed by Husky Stadium.
"Someday," he told his dad, Gordy, "I'm going to play there."
He was off by a few hundred feet.
But ask those who have lined up against Brockman — and been knocked down by him — and they'll tell you he would have fit right in.
USC men's basketball coach Tim Floyd, after watching Brockman manhandle the Trojans for 17 points and nine rebounds last week, called the sophomore forward one of the two or three most physical players in the conference.
"That's not a derogatory term," Floyd said. "I love it. I told him after our first game against them this year that he may be my favorite player in the league."
Monday, Brockman added another term — All-Pac-10 player — giving validation that during this, his sophomore season, he has begun to fulfill all the expectations that accompanied his arrival to Washington in the fall of 2005. As a high-school senior at Snohomish, Brockman was a McDonald's All-American and considered the No. 1 prospect on the West Coast.
UW @ Arizona State, 8:30 p.m., FSN
But when last season ended and he had averaged 8.4 points and was scoreless in two of UW's three NCAA tournament games, some wondered what all the fuss was about.
"That was hard for me last year," Brockman said. "It bugged me when everybody was talking about, 'What's the matter with Brockman? Why isn't he doing what he's supposed to be doing?' I knew I could do better."
Not that his coaches ever worried. UW coach Lorenzo Romar chalked it up as the typical freshman learning curve and deferring to a team full of seniors.
But Brockman didn't take any chances. Wanting to improve his conditioning and athleticism, he dropped about 10 pounds (he's playing at roughly 245 this season). He also worked on his outside shooting, with particular emphasis on free throws — he is making 72 percent in Pac-10 games this year compared to 66.7 percent overall a year ago, important considering he has shot 48 more than any other Husky.
And as the Huskies enter the Pac-10 tournament today, Brockman is unquestionably one of the top players in the conference. He's leading the conference in rebounding at 9.6 (up from 6.5 a year ago) and is 13th in scoring at 14.1 and third in field-goal percentage (54.7).
"He's so tough," said UCLA coach Ben Howland, who avidly recruited Brockman. "He's probably the strongest guy in our league. When you watch him on film, everybody else is flying and he is holding his ground. He plays with great intensity and passion and he's very, very physical."
The physical play has long been his trademark — yes, he did play football for a few years as a receiver and lineman before concentrating on basketball as he entered high school — but one that his UW teammates had to experience first-hand to really understand.
"He's that way all the time," said senior Brandon Burmeister. "Even on the bus, going to the water cooler. I don't think he feels comfortable unless he's making contact with somebody."
Brockman says his style is rooted in the games played in the family's backyard. He's the youngest of four, all of whom played basketball. Sister Kirsten lettered one year at UW and a brother, Paul, played a year at Seattle Pacific and is now at Bellevue Community College.
"They would always beat me at everything," he said. "But I was so competitive and wanted to win, I would just do anything I had to do to win. I think that's where it originated."
And if he ever feels a temptation to slack, it's the thought of his siblings that drives him. Kirsten was forced to end her career early after tearing the ACL in her knee, then breaking the navicular bone in her foot. Paul also tore an ACL, has battled the same foot injury, and a few weeks ago, tore his meniscus while playing at BCC, leaving his playing future uncertain.
Jon Brockman, family members fear, could be susceptible to the same foot injury — all have big feet and high arches, which puts more stress on the navicular bone — but has avoided trouble so far, due in part to learning from what happened to his siblings. He wears shoes with special orthotics, and when the team does offseason training, he runs on the turf instead of the track.
"Seeing my brother and sister really makes you appreciate every single day of practice, every single game," Brockman said. "Both of them have been in positions where they can't play any more and it really makes you realize that the time you have on the court is limited and isn't going to last forever."
That's a lesson his parents tried to instill early. While basketball is the family game — Gordy played at Seattle Pacific — the kids were also required to play musical instruments and learn other non-basketball activity. Jon Brockman remembers practicing piano for an hour a day while in grade school, often hearing the sound of a basketball somewhere and counting the minutes until he could run outside and play.
The family also instilled in their children strong Christian values, something Jon carries with him to battle the temptations of college. He doesn't drink and has said he won't have sex until he's married.
"It's something I was born into," he said. "At the same time, I didn't realize the importance of it until middle school, high school, when I really started thinking about and just knowing that it's something you aren't just born into but have to do on your own to show that you really believe what you believe."
He has heard people question, however, how his beliefs jibe with his intense style of play.
"Because I'm so aggressive, people are like, 'That's not very Christian,' " he said. "But I don't see it as that at all. Basketball is a physical sport, that's the way it should be played. It's a whole lot of using your body and getting in position and some people get hurt in the process. But the main thing is, I'll be as quick to help someone up as knock them down."
He also points out that he has gotten as much as he has given at times. He has suffered five broken noses, three or four broken fingers, a broken wrist, turf toe, a badly pulled hamstring and torn shoulder muscles, the latter earlier this season.
Romar considers Brockman's package of physical ability, intense makeup and leadership — he was voted the sole captain by teammates — something that "only comes around probably every 10 years."
These days in college basketball, that often means a player who won't hang around for more than one or two seasons. But Brockman's 6-foot-7 frame and his somewhat unconventional game make him the type of player most figure will need four years to fully mature for the liking of pro scouts. A popular comparison is former Stanford star Mark Madsen, now in his seventh NBA season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brockman admits to watching Madsen whenever he can.
After the progress of this year, it seems only a matter of when, not if, he joins Madsen.
"I really believe when it's all said and done, I think he's a four-year college player," Howland said. "And I think he'll be an NBA player."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
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