Brooks Leading the Way for Oregon Ducks

Matthew Knight Arena was filled to the brim as the Oregon Ducks hosted the UCLA Bruins in the Pac-12 opener. The Bruins came into the contest undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. Led by freshman phenom, Lonzo Ball, UCLA wanted to make an early statement. Dillon Brooks, however, had other ideas to start conference play with a bang.

Before the matchup, Brooks’ season on hold. Surgery in the offseason kept the forward sidelined to start the season. Oregon earned a preseason No. 5 ranking but was short-lived due to the absence of Brooks. Losses to Baylor and Georgetown knocked Oregon down the rankings. Brooks returned to action after the Georgetown loss, and Oregon has been undefeated since.

Since arriving in Eugene, the Mississauga, Ontario, Canada native has been a physical presence for the Ducks. His play last season paved the way for the Ducks to make the Elite 8 but could not seal a trip to the Final Four. Back from surgery, Brooks has added another element to his game this season – clutch performer. Color commentator Bill Walton described Brooks as a player with ice in his veins after hitting the game winner in overtime against Tennessee.

Once again, Brooks had ice in veins with the contest on the line. Down one with seconds left, Brooks pulled up a shot behind the arc. He had just enough separation from the UCLA defender in a contested shot. In perhaps one of the greatest finishes in Oregon Basketball history, Brooks sent the Pit Crew, the Oregon student section, into a frenzy. Brooks hit nothing but net in the Ducks’ dramatic 89-87 victory over the Bruins.

Oregon fans celebrated just a bit early as time remained on the clock. However, UCLA had no real chance to get a decent shot off as fans rushed the court a second time. With the win, Brooks indicated to conference opponents who the team to beat in the Pac-12 is.

In 15 games this season, Brooks is tied in points-per-game with current teammate, Chris Boucher, averaging about 13 points. Defensively, Brooks has 18 steals while forcing 33 turnovers on the season.

As conference play progresses, Oregon will be relying heavily on Brooks being a consistent producer on both ends of the court. He can handle the pressures from the early season hype surrounding the Ducks before the season. The expectation is at least a Final Four appearance. Head coach Dana Altman has perhaps put together his best squad since joining the program. With Brooks at full strength, Oregon could well be playing for a championship.

But before getting too far ahead, the focus for Oregon is taking care of business in the Pac-12. After handing UCLA and USC their first losses of the season, Oregon swept the Washington schools on the road. The road only gets tougher with Arizona looming and a road trip to Southern California later this season.

No doubt, Brooks exemplifies the style of Oregon Basketball through his grit and physical play. However, his emotions need to stay in check so he can make an impact on the game. He dealt the Ducks some adversity against Washington State after leaving for kicking a player in the groin. The play was unfortunate as Brooks did not deserve a flagrant foul as the kick was unintentional. In any case, Brooks is nowhere near a dirty player, but someone who wants to win through hard work.

Regardless of how Oregon’s season plays out this season, Brooks is indeed turning pro after the season. He has all the tools necessary to play in the NBA and make an instant impact on a team. For current NBA teams looking for the next star, Brooks is a player to build a team around in the coming years.

His draft stock should be high and could be a late first-round pick when he opts for the NBA. The Golden State Warriors could be an ideal fit depending if Draymond Green remains on the team. If not, then for sure any NBA team will be delighted to draft him.

For now, Brooks will enjoy his time in Eugene hoping to make history with the Oregon Ducks. Regardless whether a fan of Oregon or opponent, Brooks is an exciting player to watch. Hopefully, he continues his magic to keep the Pit Crew rocking Matthew Knight Arena the rest of the season.

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