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College Basketball : Knight and Maybe Providence Help Brooks

January 19, 1986|Mal Florence

What could be more fitting for a young Indiana athlete than to share the state's prestigious Mr. Basketball high school award and then go on to play for Bob Knight and Indiana University?

Delray Brooks, a 6-foot-4 Indiana youngster, had all that going for him--until he recently quit the team.

Knight has run off a lot of players over the years but this was an amicable parting. Brooks, a sophomore guard, was upset because he wasn't getting much playing time and his prospects of becoming a regular were uncertain at best.

"Delray Brooks is a classic case of media overkill," said Bob Hammel, veteran sportswriter for the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Telephone. "He was named USA Today player of the year in 1984 while he was at Michigan City (Ind.) Rogers High School. He's a super kid and a hard worker, but there was a great gap between his reputation and ability."

Brooks, one of two high school players invited to U.S. Olympic team tryouts, started only one game and was the eighth or ninth man on the team when he decided to leave the university. Knight tried to help him.

"I've never had a better kid here than Delray," Knight said. "We'll do everything we can to get him situated someplace else."

Brooks was in the stands at Providence, R.I., City Center last Saturday night, watching Providence lose in double overtime to Villanova.

At one point during the game, the crowd began chanting, "Del-ray! Del-ray!"

"Everybody likes to hear his name," Brooks said after the game. "It was nice of the crowd to make me feel welcome."

Providence officials confirmed that Brooks wants to transfer to the school, but they said they could not comment under NCAA rules. Spring semester at Providence started Monday.

"Delray wanted a situation where he could get away from the Midwest, get an opportunity to play and start all over again," his father, Ray Brooks, told the Providence Journal.

Lots of people will be rooting for him, most notably Bob Knight.

Don Haskins still snarls and rages over missed shots and sloppy dribbling, but there are those who maintain that he has mellowed after a quarter-century as basketball coach at Texas El Paso.

"You can't say that's really a front, the hollering and screaming," said senior forward Kevin Hamilton. "One side is doing his job the best he knows how to. The other side is the nicest person."

Mary Haskins, the coach's wife, who should know him best, says, "He's extremely caring about people. He just doesn't show that he's soft-hearted."

Haskins, 55, reached the pinnacle of college basketball in 1966, when lightly regarded Texas Western, as UTEP then was known, upset top-ranked Kentucky in the NCAA championship game, 72-65. That team won by playing a tight, intimidating defense orchestrated from the bench by the massive, glowering Bear, as he is still known.

Carlton (Stretch) Elliott, an insurance executive and longtime friend of the coach, has seen the other Haskins--the one who dipped into his own pocket to help a family stranded far from home, or to buy basketballs for underprivileged kids.

"He's tough as hell on the court but he's got a heart of gold," Elliott said.

Although he can still wilt a player with a stare or a few harsh words, Haskins says he isn't the fire-breather he was 20 years ago.

"I don't know how it happened, but somewhere along the road I got old," he said, laughing.

Although he's never managed to regain the heights of 1966, Haskins has continued to produce excellent teams. He took a 441-202 record into this season and had his current team ranked 15th after a 13-game winning streak that included a 78-64 win over nationally ranked Georgetown. UTEP is ranked 17th in the latest Associated Press poll.

It is a typical Haskins team, mixing a tight defense with a balanced offense.

"If your defense is not good, you won't be there when it comes to playoff time," he said. "It's not just basketball, it's any sport that I know of."

The Bear still growls, but it's a happy growl.

Basketball Notes USC Coach Stan Morrison says that Washington is bringing a bit of the Big East to the Far West. After his Trojans lost to Washington, 91-75, last weekend, Morrison said: "Washington plays a very aggressive brand of basketball that I welcome to our conference. I don't think it's out of line at all and, if our conference is to do well in postseason play, we had better recognize that tough, aggressive basketball, day in and day out, is the kind of preparation you need for the NCAA tournament." .

Four Pac-10 teams--USC, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State--were eliminated in the first round last year and only one conference team, Oregon State, has made it to a regional final in the last five seasons. . . . Arizona guard Bruce Fraser went 84 minutes over two seasons without taking a shot from the field before he made a tip-in Dec. 28 against Boston College. Teammate Bruce Wheatley said that Fraser now has a new nickname. "We used to call him Shoot It and now we call him Shot It."

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