Going 'Nova?

Wildcats express interest in Lady Mountaineers’ Brooks

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

The call from Villanova came as a surprise. Then Katie Brooks caught hold of herself.

Piquing the interest of a major women’s college basketball program has been the aim of the Heritage High School junior since she first took up the game. It’s no surprise the Wildcat coaching staff is flying down to evaluate the silky smooth guard in a week’s time, Heritage coach Rick Howard said.

"She’s a hard-working kid," he said. "She wants to win real bad. I think that drives her.

"She puts in a lot of hours, unlike most kids would these days. She knows what she has to do."

Brooks pumped in a game-high 22 points as the Lady Mountaineers (18-5) rolled to a 66-51 at Alcoa on Tuesday. Noticeable was the way the 5-foot-9 Brooks was able to pull up off the dribble and bury the open jumper. The athleticism to play at the
major college level has always been there. This season, Brooks has become a shooter with a stroke rivaling any in the area.

Lady Mountaineer assistant Justin Underwood did wonders with her mechanics, she said. Going one-on-one with older brother Ben in the gym helped her learn to get her newfound stroke off quicker.

"He would pack my shot all the time, and that made me better," Brooks said.

Averaging 16 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per games this season, Brooks turned in an impressive showing at a holiday tournament in Ohio over Christmas. The coach of one of the opposing teams is a long-time friend of Villanova coach Harry Parretta.

"He (the opposing coach) told me I’d fit in perfectly with their team," Brooks said.

When the Lady Mountaineers returned home, the Wildcat coaching staff followed up.

"When they called and said they were interested in me, I said, ‘Wow!’" Brooks said. "‘My dream might come true.’"

Howard wasted no time working Brooks into the lineup as a freshman two seasons ago. The Lady Mountaineers had an All-American at point guard at the time in current University of Tennessee freshman Cait McMahan. That withstanding, Howard wanted Brooks ready as soon as possible.

"As a coach, in the back of your mind, you’ve always got to think, ‘What if?’" he said.

When McMahan was lost for the year with a knee injury on the last day of the regular season, Brooks was no longer the backup. In a head-turning display, the then-freshman point guard led the Lady Mountaineers to the District 4AAA championship game and a berth in the region tournament.

"I was pretty nervous," Brooks said. "My first year, you know how freshmen are. I just wanted to try my best and I wanted to win it for Cait."

"She came through and ran the team," Howard said.

Brooks said she remembers well dueling with McMahan in practice back then.

"My freshman year, she’d steal the ball from me every time I got it," she said, "but, if she hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be the player I’ve become."

Brooks has added 20 pounds of muscle since that freshman season, Howard said.

"People aren’t knocking her around and taking the ball," he said.

Where once was stood a talented but untested freshman whose aim was simply not to mess up now stands player amassing all the tools.

"Now, she knows I need her to score," Howard said, "and she’s up to the challenge, night in and night out. I think she learned a lot going up to Ohio and playing against those people."

Upcoming games
(All tipoffs are 6:30 p.m.)

Today’s games
Alcoa at Carter
Seymour at Heritage

Friday’s games
Fulton at Alcoa
Heritage at Lenoir City
Maryville at South-Doyle
Farragut at William Blount

Tuesday’s games
Alcoa at Seymour
Heritage at Farragut
Lenoir City at Maryville
William Blount at Bearden

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