Buddhism and meditation guide Eli Brooks through the ups and downs of his Michigan career – York Dispatch

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 12:44 am

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ROB ROSE, 717-505-5418/@robrosesports Published 6:08 p.m. ET Feb. 26, 2020 | Updated 10:16 p.m. ET Feb. 26, 2020

Buddhism has helped Spring Grove High grad Eli Brooks deal with the ups and downs of his Michigan basketball career. He wears a tattoo symbolizing his faith on his left shoulder.(Photo: Carlos Osorio, AP)

While walking through the Morningstar Marketplace with his mother during his sophomore year at Spring Grove High, something caught Eli Brooks eye.

It took some convincing because of the high price tag, but Brooks got his mother, Kelly, to purchase a statue of the head of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha and the founderof Buddhism.

Little did she know that the purchase would change her sons life.

Brooks carried the statue in his backpack for every game of his sophomore season and into his junior year, until one night he slipped on some ice and the Buddha head broke.

Now, a junior and a starter for the University of Michigan basketball team, Brooks no longer carriesthe symbol of the faith in his bag. Instead, he carries that faith with him every time he steps on the court. It's a faith that has allowed him to deal with a Michigan career that's been full of ups and downs.

The tattoo on his left shoulder serves as a symbol of thefaith he has and how it has allowed him to thrive, even after finding himself on the bench and working with the scout team before emerging asa team leader this season.

Its a visual reminder of how it got me through dark times, Brooks said of his tattoo of the Buddha in a phone interview.

Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) grabs the ball from guard Zavier Simpson (3) during the first half against Iowa in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette via AP)(Photo: Rebecca F. Miller, AP)

Test of faith: When Brooks originally purchased the Buddha head, he only knew a little about Buddhism. As he got older, andafterspendingmore time learning and researching the faith, he found hewas interested in it.

The point where he really found himself looking for guidance came during his sophomore year at Michigan. Brooks didnt start a game last season after he started 12 games as a freshman following his dominant career at Spring Grove High.

Brooks was asked to work with the scout team during practices to help the Wolverines prepare to defend opposing star players. During the rare moments when he was on the floor in the real games, he struggled with his shooting and confidence.

After he averaged 1.8 and 2.5 points per game in his first two seasons, respectively, Brooks admitted the idea of transferring to another school crossed his mind, but he decided to stick it out at Michigan.

I think that crosses everybodys mind when youre not getting the playing time, but I just looked at it like, 'its a great opportunity to get a great education,' Brooks said. The ball (will) start bouncing your way some time, so just take advantage of the resources that we have here and keep trying to bring up my game so I can get on the court.

Becoming a leader: Brooks worked to elevate physically on the court, but improving his mentality and focus werejust as important. His time on the court and in the gym, in combination with his faith and daily meditation beforepractice to get into the right frame of mind, helpedBrooks earn a spot in the starting lineup this season under new head coach Juwan Howard, a former member of the legendary Fab Five with the Wolverines.

Its easy to get caught up, so just having something there to believe in and trust and get you through tough times is really good, Brooks said.

After he had earned a starting spot, Brooks learned how important it is to be a leader on the team during a season whenthe Wolverines battled plenty of ups and downs.

Brooks said it was difficult at first to be a vocal leader, evident by one his nicknames, The Silent Assassin, given to him by teammate Isaiah Livers because of Brooks ability to get things done without talking too much.

Before he could lead his team, however, he had to learn how to lead himself.

I feel like you have to be in control of yourself in order to lead someone else, Brooks said. If you dont know whats going on, its hard for you to teach someone else.

Brooks, who also goes by The Professor, a nickname given to him by Howard because of Brooks desire to ask questions and his high basketball IQ, is schooling his doubters now.

Through 27 games, he has more points, minutes, rebounds and steals than during his first two seasons combined. Brooks has been the Wolverines leading scorer on six occasions and has started every game while averaging 11 points per contest.

He's also helped guide his team through achallenging season, that saw the Wolverines (now 18-9) gofrom the No. 4 team in NCAA Division I, to unranked after a four-game skid, and now back into the top 25 at No. 19.

His status for Michigans next game is still unclear after he suffered a nose injury against Purdue. Brooks said he will likely wear a clear facemask, like the one made popular by Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton in the early 2000s, until the black, carbon fiber model being made is ready for him.

Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) walks off the court ofter being injured during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)(Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)

Ups and downs: As he prepares for the final four games of Michigans regular season, Brooks said the team is peaking at the right time and their challenges during the year have brought them closer together.

Much like his career at Michigan, the struggles have only made the successes mean more for Brooks. As the pressure on winning each game rises with the NCAA Tournament approaching, one glimpse at the tattoo on his shoulder, the symbol of his faith that has helped guide him through all the challenges, reminds Brooks of how far he has come during his college career.

Stay true to who you are, Brooks said. Just continue to do things youve done in the past that make you happy. Theres been ups and downs. A lot of good things happened and then bad things have happened, but thats life. Not everything is going to be glitter, so you just need to be able to get through those hard times.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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Buddhism and meditation guide Eli Brooks through the ups and downs of his Michigan career - York Dispatch

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