JEFF SHEWMON/USA WATER POLO
All Brooks is missing is a medal
SECOND IN A SERIES
He could have spent his college career playing for Terry Schroeder at Pepperdine.
The Star-Bulletin profiles Hawaii's athletes competing in next month's Beijing Games
Instead, two-time UCLA All-American Brandon Brooks (Punahou '99) will play for Schroeder at the Ying Tung Natatorium, the Olympic venue for men's water polo next month. The U.S opens with host China Aug. 10 (10:40 p.m. Aug. 9 Hawaii time).
Brooks, who had hung up his goalie cap to help coach the UCLA men's and women's teams the past three years, was persuaded to return to the national team following a coaching change 13 months ago. Blowing the whistle at practice now is Schroeder, the rock of the 1984 and '88 Olympic teams that won silver medals.
» Full name: Brandon Scott Brooks
» Birthdate: April 29, 1981
» High school: Punahou (1999)
» Hometown: Honolulu
» Position: Goalie
» Olympics: Second (2004)
» Competition dates: Aug. 19-24
» Career highlights: Star-Bulletin's Mr. Basketball (1999), leading Punahou to state title ... Captain of Buffanblu's track and basketball state championship teams ... Two-time All-American at UCLA, all-time career saves leader (700).
» Fun fact: Brooks, an assistant coach for the men's and women's water polo teams at UCLA, was part of the Bruins' 100th NCAA championship team in 2007 when the UCLA women won the title.
» Tomorrow: Wrestler and Roosevelt graduate Clarissa Chun.
"I like Terry very much and I felt like I could help the team," said Brooks, the starting goalie for the U.S. team that finished 11th at the 2004 Athens Games. "You can only be an athlete at this level for so long and I felt I still had the talent and the energy.
"I'm looking forward to taking in the whole Olympic experience, take in the crowd and the whole show, getting to walk in the Opening Ceremonies, which we didn't get to do last time.
"It's one of the great privileges, to represent the U.S. team, to be able to walk with some of my idols on the USA basketball team. And maybe get to talk to Bryan Clay."
Clay (Castle '98) is favored to win the gold medal in the decathlon.
"We used to compete in high jump together in high school," said Brooks, the captain of Punahou's state championship teams in basketball and track and field. "He was a lot better."
JEFF SHEWMON/USA WATER POLO
Brandon Brooks will be in goal for the U.S. when it opens Olympic play against China.
The 27-year-old Brooks hasn't done too badly for himself. The Star-Bulletin's Mr. Basketball of 1999 went on to win two NCAA water polo titles with the Bruins and, as a freshman, was a walk-on member of the UCLA basketball team that advanced to the Sweet 16.
The 6-foot-6 Brooks finished his college career as UCLA's all-time saves leader (700). Since graduating in 2005, he's been an assistant for both the men's and women's water polo programs at his alma mater,
including last year when the Bruin women won the school's 100th NCAA title.
There is still room in the trophy case for an Olympic medal. Brooks is encouraged by the turnaround since Athens.
The U.S. had dropped to 11th internationally in 2005 and lost its funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee while going through three coaches in 2 1/2 years. Thirteen months ago, USA Water Polo fired Rick Azevedo and begged Schroeder to move up from part-time assistant to head coach.
In 1984, Schroeder was the model for the nude statue at the Los Angeles Coliseum that symbolizes the ideal male athlete. The four-time Olympian now has the U.S. back in the medal discussion following a best-ever second-place finish to gold-medal favorite Serbia last month in the championship of the FINA men's world league super final.
Brooks has been part of the renaissance. He's promised to throw his team a luau if they medaled.
"We have seven returning Olympians," Brooks said. "We have a talented roster, top to bottom, with good experience and guys who really like each other.
"We have a good draw, the opposite of what we had in 2004 where we ended up with the (eventual) gold, silver and bronze medalists in our draw. It's a much more open field. I think it's very wide open one through 10."
Brooks, the only non-Californian on the 13-man roster, hopes to return to Hawaii at some point.
"It's going to be hard to leave UCLA, where I work with some of my best friends," he said. "I cherish the opportunity to develop players but I do want to come home."
Brooks is continuing the tradition of a Hawaii athlete on the water polo roster that began with the late Duke Kahanamoku in 1932. (Coincidentally, the gold-medal match will be played on Aug. 24, Kahanamoku's birthday).
Brooks' participation extends the Hawaii streak to six consecutive Games; Chris Duplanty was in goal in 1988, '92 and '96, and Sean Kern played center in 2000.
Brooks is proud to be among the athletes with Hawaii ties who compete in Beijing.
"I think it says a lot about a relatively small state with a small population," he said. "I think the Olympic spirit and the spirit of Hawaii are similar, the spirit of being friendly and compassionate, and that hard work and a good attitude pays off.
"I like it to be known that I carry Hawaii with me every where I go, every time I compete. I am proud to represent my family and my great state."