Brooks is full-proof guard


After scoring 29 points and 7 rebounds as 11th ranked Florida beat 12th ranked Tennessee Sunday night, Florida's Sha Brooks waves to the crowd of more than 8,000 as she exit the O'Connell Center to a standing ovation.

Brad McClenny /Special to the Sun
Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 12:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 12:36 p.m.

Sha Brooks has made a career out of proving people wrong.

It started in middle school, where she played on her first serious team. She won a starting spot her sixth-grade year, but still wasn’t sure if she was good enough.

“My sister played in middle school and I can remember going to her games and wanting to be out there as much as she was out there,” Brooks said. “That’s how I found out that I really love the sport.”

That love translated to several extra hours in the gym and paid off when she rewrote her middle school’s record books.

Then there was high school and another mountain to climb. Brooks shined as a four-year starter at Jackson (Tenn.) North Side High, earning scholarship offers from around the country.

“I wanted to be the first person from my family to go play for a big college,” she said. “I had an opportunity to pick between (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Florida, and I picked Florida. I felt like my best opportunity was to come here, because I could further my career by playing here.

“Besides, who doesn’t know about the Florida Gators?”

But well before Brooks was able to put on the orange and blue at UF, she had to deal with a lot of black-and-blue bruises while proving to her neighborhood friends that she was good enough to play with them.

“When I was little, I was always the only girl out there playing,” she said. “I got a lot of talk. They’d say ‘I don’t want the girl on my team,’ or ‘she can’t play.’ Nobody really knew then that girls can play with guys. I always had to prove myself on the court. I guess that’s why I’m here today.”

Brooks has used the doubt and built a legendary career that will leave behind UF records that will stand for years to come. She ranks in the top 10 in 12 statistical categories, including the top spot in consecutive starts (121) and free-throws made (420). She’s No. 6 in scoring (1,772) and No. 10 in assists (355), showing her rare ability to both score and distribute the ball to her teammates.

“Sha’s got the ability to do whatever she wants to do, on the court and off,” Gator coach Amanda Butler said. “She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve coached. When she puts her mind to something, she does it.”

She’s also caught the attention of scouts for nearly every WNBA team. They’ve been seen sprinkled around the O’Connell Center and on road games throughout the year, gathering a report on the 5-foot-7 guard with the total package. Brooks said she doesn’t like to know when they’re there, because she’d get nervous.

“That was my dream from when I was in middle school,” Brooks said. “I always wanted to play in the WNBA. To this day, I still think, ‘can I play there?’”

That seems to be another doubt that she’s likely to crush. Scouts have said if she has a couple more performances like her explosion at home against Tennessee (29 points, seven rebounds) or on the road against Alabama (29 points on 6-of-9 from 3-point range), she could find herself being drafted in the first round of the April 9 event.

“If I get picked in the first round, I’ll probably cry, because it’s my dream come true,” she said.

But for now, Brooks is content with her team-high 16.4 points and 4.79 assists per game, as well as the team’s 23-6 record. She’s focused on leading the No. 21 Gators to their first SEC Tournament title and beyond into the NCAA Tournament later this month.

It’s about taking one step at a time for Brooks.

“It’s great to look at the WNBA, or talk about what I did in high school,” she said. “But that stuff won’t mean anything if we can’t keep winning and leave something behind after this year that will be remembered.”

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