Commentary

Brooks ready to make mark with Nets

With a potential battle for a starting role at stake, the rookie is up for the challenge

Updated: June 28, 2011, 10:04 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- During the summer of senior year at Tucker High School in Atlanta, MarShon Brooks attended a basketball camp at Georgia Tech.

His counselor? None other than New Jersey Nets shooting guard Anthony Morrow.

Obviously, Brooks didn't think it was odd then. But he does now, especially since he and Morrow are going to be competing for minutes -- and possibly a starting role -- next season.

"I was a skinny kid, he was a skinny kid. I was the best player on my [high school] team, and he was the best player at Georgia Tech, so we kind of clicked right away," said Brooks, whose rights were traded to the Nets by the Boston Celtics on draft night. "But it's just weird that I'm in this situation and going to be fighting for minutes with him. It should be fun."

After averaging 24.6 points per game -- good for second in the nation -- at Providence as a senior, the 22-year-old Brooks didn't think he'd slip all the way to No. 25 on Thursday night. Granted, he plans on using that as motivation heading into his rookie campaign.

"Let's just say during the draft process, I played really well," said Brooks, a vaunted 6-foot-5 scorer who set a Big East record by dropping in 52 points against Notre Dame on Feb. 23. "I wouldn't say it was frustrating. It's more so that I was disappointed. I feel like I still have more to prove, so it leaves a chip on my shoulder, definitely.

"I've been the underdog (my entire life), so I'm used to it. I'm just humbled to be in this situation, and I just want to play hard. It makes me want to play harder."

Brooks, who was born in Long Branch, N.J., but moved to Atlanta when he was six, wasn't a highly-touted prospect as a junior, when he averaged just 14.2 points per game for the Friars. But he decided to commit himself to a rigorous offseason workout regiment run by trainer Larry Marshall in Keyport, N.J., which took his game to the next level.

"That's when it all started," Brooks said. "My body is what helped me the most. I became more physical, but more than that, I gained more confidence. I was watching film of my junior year, and I was shying away from contact. But during my senior year, I was looking for contact. And as a scorer, I got to the line more."

It's true. In 2009-10, Brooks got to the charity stripe just 83 times. In 2010-11, he got there 219 times.

During his four-year career at Providence, Brooks had to be the go-to-guy offensively on most nights despite being hounded by three or four defenders on every possession.

"I was one of the only scoring threats," Brooks said. "I'd be catching the ball at the top of the key, and I'm looking at defenses and it's basically three or four guys on me."

That shouldn't be the case in New Jersey, where superstar point guard Deron Williams will be the one drawing the attention of opposing head coaches.

"I think it's gonna make life a lot easier for me playing with someone like Deron," Brooks said.

Asked to give a scouting report on himself, Brooks said: "I would say I'm a scorer that can shoot. Shooting's definitely not my strength, but I think I can get to the rim a little better than most shooting guards."

Scoring, however, has never been one of Brooks' problems. However, his defense has.

"Defensively, I gotta put more effort forth," Brooks said. "[In college] I was playing power forward, 20 minutes a game at power forward. I struggled, but I think I will do a much better job guarding people that's my size.

"At Providence, I wasn't guarding the best player, because I was playing 40 minutes a game. But growing up, I was the defensive stopper in high school, so it shouldn't be a problem."

Brooks was supposed to work out with the Nets on June 9, but had to back out because of an injury. Brooks said he ended up rolling his ankle four days earlier during a workout with the New York Knicks, and decided against working out with New Jersey because it would've been his fourth workout in four days.

"I called my agent and told him to say no," Brooks said. "It never had a chance to heal. Plus I had a big week [the] next week."

Still, Brooks is ecstatic that he ended up in New Jersey. Although he and his mother moved to Atlanta when he was little, he came back every summer to stay with his grandmother and go to camp at Monmouth College.

"I'm a Jersey boy," Brooks said.

The Nets have offered Brooks a tender to retain his rights, but because of the impending lockout, he doesn't know what the future holds. He just hopes everything gets settled soon.

"I'm scared (of NBA practice)," Brooks said. "I just gotta prepare myself."

Said general manager Billy King: "MarShon's not gonna slack off now that he's come to the NBA. He can score, and being a four-year guy (in college), he's gonna come in and compete for minutes right away."

Brooks is up for the challenge.

"I think the four years at Providence and the different roles I played -- four different years -- is going to help my transition," Brooks said. "I look forward to it."

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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