Keion Brooks posted 22 points and 11 rebounds in a Friday night game at the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia. After the game, I caught up with the five-star prospect from La Lumiere School and was immediately impressed with his thoughtfulness and humility.
Brooks is a senior at La Lumiere, a prep school located in northwestern Indiana in La Porte, about an hour outside of Chicago.
Brooks made the transition to La Lumiere after spending his first three years at Fort Wayne North Side in northeastern Indiana. And although Fort Wayne and La Lumiere might reside in the same state separated by just two hours, the two atmospheres are worlds apart.
At Fort Wayne, the goal is to win a state championship. At La Lumiere, the team travels all across the country and the ultimate prize is to cut down the nets in New York City, winning a national championship. La Lumiere won its first national title in 2017 with future NBA lottery pick Jaren Jackson Jr. leading the way.
I asked Brooks about this seismic shift.
“I’m not gonna lie, at times, I do miss Indiana basketball and just the atmosphere that it brings,” Brooks said. “[But] I’ve been able to become a better player and an overall better person with the move to La Lumiere.”
Brooks, like many other high-profile athletes, has learned to deal with the spotlight from an early age.
While some of that attention can be satisfying, other parts of it can be overwhelming. The spotlight is only magnified when you’re dealing with an player of Keion’s caliber, who's yet to make his college decision.
As an unsigned senior, the questions on recruiting can seem endless.
Fortunately, Brooks has managed to stay balanced by leaning on his support system and a fellow teammate that is dealing with the same attention.
“I feel like I’ve got a great support system around me. And I have Isaiah [Stewart] to take some of that pressure off of me,” Brooks said. “And at the same time, being around Isaiah, we help by talking about it together and kind of vent to each other— to talk about what’s going on in our life and and what’s going on in our recruiting situation.”
“I feel like with that, I’m not overwhelmed at all.”
There has certainly been ups and downs with Brooks. Just as an example, after he announced that he would be transferring to La Lumiere, one disappointed journalist at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel voiced his frustrations in an article headlined:
The Keion Brooks, Jr. Saga is Just the Latest in a Growing Line of Parental Neglect in Athletics.
After receiving criticism, the article’s headline was softened to its current title:
One section in the column read:
“That is sad on the state level, but closer to home, what it also demonstrates is the continued practice that representing yourself is far more important than representing your community… over and over a lack of loyalty is exhibited by athletes…”
Let’s preface that by saying that high school basketball in Indiana is practically a religion. I’m reminded of the fanfare that was associated with Romeo Langford during his final year at New Albany. Thousands of fans attended his games, with many of them wearing Indiana Hoosiers gear and chanting “I-U, I-U, I-U” during timeouts and breaks.
So, while most responses to Keion’s move to La Lumiere were positive and supportive, Indiana basketball fans are a passionate group— and others voiced their displeasure that the best player in their state would be spending his final season at a prep school rather than in his community.
Nevertheless, Brooks remained resolute in his decision and gained strength through the support of his family and friends. It’s clear that Keion believes that transferring to La Lumiere was in his best interest. And that doesn’t discount how difficult it was for him to leave his his family and the Fort Wayne community.
“It was definitely hard, especially moving away from my family,” Brooks said. “I’m very close with my older brother and my two younger brothers. I’m very close with my Mom and Dad as well.”
“It was also hard leaving my high school. The bonds that I made there were not even just with the players and coaches, but also the teachers. So that was kind of difficult, but they all understood and they’re wishing me the best.”
Moving forward, Keion hopes to deliver another national championship to La Lumiere. The Lakers are currently undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally by USA TODAY.
“To believe in each other and work hard every single play,” Brooks said when asked what it would take to win a title. “When things aren’t going right, just lean on each other. Coach always preaches: ‘Don’t worry about yourself. Worry about your teammate.’”
La Lumiere will play No. 4-ranked Montverde Academy in the Cancer Research Classic at 3:00 p.m. EST today. The Eagles are the reigning national champions.
This is the second meeting between the two prep powerhouses.
La Lumiere claimed the first contest with a 58-51 victory on Dec. 21st at the ‘Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
Michael McLamb is the High School Hoops Editor at Mars Reel. You can follow him: @McLambSays