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LSUS forward Brooks fulfills life-long dream of professional basketball in contract with Swiss team

August 7, 2023

SHREVEPORT – When Shreveport native Jalen Brooks returned home to play his final college basketball season at LSUS, he had two individual goals: to get his name on the wall of the The Dock (LSUS’s basketball gym) alongside the other NAIA All-Americans, and sign a professional basketball contract. Brooks crossed the first item off the list, being selected for the NAIA All-American First Team after finishing in the top-10 nationally in scoring and rebounding among other categories. The second benchmark was cleared in late July when he inked a deal with Switzerland’s BBC Nyon. “The feeling was amazing because as I was waiting for basketball seasons around the world to end, it felt like I wouldn’t get the opportunity (to play professional basketball),” Brooks said. “This is what I’ve worked for, to be a pro basketball player. This is what I loved to do.”

The Woodlawn High product used those two motivations to produce one of the best seasons in LSUS history. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 22.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, finishing eighth and second, respectively, in NAIA national rankings. Brooks has always been an aggressive rebounder and defender, but it’s his scoring that soared to another level after transferring from Southern Arkansas.

“When I first came to LSUS, I saw the All-Americans on the wall – I looked at it every day,” Brooks said. “I wanted to be on that wall.

“I felt more comfortable shooting at LSUS because my main role at Southern Arkansas was defense and hustle plays. I wasn’t really focused on scoring until I came to LSUS … and (LSUS coach Kyle Blankenship) handed me the keys and let me drive.” Blankenship, who recruited Brooks out of high school, knew he could be one of the best players in the NAIA.

“We knew his talent level and ability from what he did in high school and college already, but in the first couple weeks of seeing work out with our team, I told my staff he could be a First Team All-American,” Blankenship said. “Everything from his work ethic to the improvements he’d made throughout his college career, we knew he was going to be a perfect fit for the team we were putting together. “He naturally progressed throughout the preseason, shot the ball extremely well and could put it on the floor and score. But aside from the work he put in, the one thing we try to instill in our guys is confidence. Whether he missed five in a row or made five in a row, nothing changed about our belief in his ability as a player or a shooter, and he gravitated toward that.”

There’s a good reason that Brooks wasn’t asked to be a primary scorer at Southern Arkansas – his older brother DeVante Brooks. DeVante Brooks led the team in scoring (17.6 points) and rebounding (11.3) per game for an 18-12 Muleriders squad one season after the Brooks brothers led the bunch to an NCAA Division II Tournament. Jalen Brooks was no slouch as a scorer (13 points) or rebounder (8.7) in his final season at Southern Arkansas, leading to his second all-conference honorable mention nod. Jalen wouldn’t mind following in his brother’s

footsteps again as a professional rookie.

DeVante Brooks was an honorable mention selection in the Swiss Basketball League for the same BBC Nyon team that brother Jalen will be joining. DeVante will be playing his second professional season in Finland, but it’ll be helpful to have big brother on the same continent as Jalen adjusts to professional basketball. “My brother led the way, cleared the path for both of us,” Jalen Brooks said about joining DeVante’s old team. “Everything he does, I want to do – from the schools we’ve attended and the teams we’ve played on.

“With me being halfway across the world from my family, they may be sleeping when I finish practice. But my brother will just be one hour ahead of me, so that’s really a win that I’ll have somebody to talk to that’s been through the same things.” Jalen Brooks will start practice on Aug. 17 with his new team as he’ll learn the ropes of being a European power forward.

While 6-foot-5 would be an undersized American power forward, Brooks’ physical style as a defender and rebounder fits the bill. “Coaches love rebounding and hustle, and I have the motor to do whatever I have to do,” Jalen Brooks said. “Everybody can score, but not everybody can rebound at a high level, and it gives me an edge that I can do both.”

Blankenship said that while Brooks is a complete player, his elite rebounding ability could allow him a lengthy professional career. “I’ve had guys that are great rebounders, and it’s a natural ability,” Blankenship said. “It’s an instinct and a want to.

“Some guys can do all the right things and box out, but you’ve got to have an instinct of where the ball is going, chase it down and want it more than anybody else. That’s what Jalen has.” Brooks’ improvement as a shooter – Jalen shot 36 percent from 3-point range while his athleticism and aggression allowed him to make nearly 200 free throws at LSUS – helped complete his professional package as he led LSUS to a second straight NAIA Sweet 16 appearance and third straight Red River Athletics Conference title.

The accolades continued to pour in from there, adding All-Louisiana First Team and Louisiana Small College Player of the Year on top of RRAC Player of the Year honors.

The Pilots finished 26-8 with his hometown friends and family watching in the stands.

“(Blankenship) recruited me out of Woodlawn, but I wanted to go play with my brother at Southern Arkansas,” Jalen Brooks said. “I appreciate him for giving me the opportunity to come back home and play at LSUS – he still believed in me, and I wish I had more time here.”

The Brooks’ brothers helped revitalize Woodlawn’s basketball program under the leadership of coach Kenny Sykes. The Knights appeared in consecutive Marsh Madness tournaments (state semifinals), including a Class 4A championship appearance in Jalen Brooks’ final season (a two-point loss to Carencro). Now that his dream of professional basketball has come true, he has one more dream in mind. He wants to play with brother DeVante again, this time holding up a championship trophy together.


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