Roughing For Rebounds
Dec. 6, 2008
By Christian Caple
SEATTLE - Artem Wallace appeared for a weekly media gathering a few weeks ago, took a few questions about his recovery from knee surgery and was ready to leave when a reporter noticed some stitches under the Washington forward's right eye.
'Is that a Jon Brockman battle scar?' the reporter inquired.
Brockman, UW's 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound potential All-American senior forward, has dealt out a few of those in his Husky career.
The fact that the reporter knew the scar was likely caused by Brockman says enough on its own. But his teammates can attest to Brockman's physicality with no more than a glance at their own medical records.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who took a pretty good shot to the mouth from Brockman during offseason workouts, politely requested to UW coach Lorenzo Romar one day that the bruising senior wear the same sort of back-up beeping device seen on large trucks.
Scott Suggs, a freshman guard from Washington, Mo., was welcomed into the brethren of accidental Brockman-induced injuries not long after arriving in Seattle.
'Yeah, I got mine during the summer,' Suggs said, chuckling as most of his teammates do when discussing the subject. 'Open gym, I broke my nose. I guess that was my initiation.'
Brockman himself suffered the same injury as a freshman -- he's broken his nose five times total -- playing the first few games of the season with a protective mask.
'I've definitely taken my blows as well,' he said.
Each nasal contusion lends more physical -- if not painful -- evidence to how aggressive the Huskies hit the boards, even in practice.
This is especially true of Brockman. He entered this season as the nation's leading returning rebounder, and needs only to keep his current pace to shatter the all-time school record for boards in a career. He's averaging 11.5 rebounds per game to go along with his team-leading 17.2 points per contest.
'A lot of it is just rebounding,' Brockman said of the myriad bumps and bruises he's dished out accidentally during his career. 'Guys go up, I get them on the way down, or get them going up to finish around the hoop. It's not something I'm trying to do on purpose.'
Romar has said multiple times that Brockman goes through even the layup line with reckless abandonment, approaching every practice as if he's still trying to make the team.
He's always been that way, Romar said. The seventh-year coach remembers a story Brockman tells about being in kindergarten, when Brockman turned after sitting down and accidentally kicked a girl in the nose.
'He always jokes about how his parents would move stuff out of the way because as he was going through the house, he'd knock stuff down,' Romar said. 'He's just a rough-and-tumble guy.'
Almost always the first guy on the floor during a scramble for a loose ball, Brockman is notorious throughout the Pac-10 as a guy nobody wants to play against.
Take this excerpt from a promotional video released by the UW athletic department touting Brockman as an All-American: 'A lot of times, the ball's up there and I have no regard for my body or the people standing around me, whether they're my teammates or the other team. Elbows are flying and sometimes people get in the way ... I get an eye on the ball and I just have to have it.'
It's an attitude that has earned him the respect of his teammates, as well as local and national media pundits. Prior to the season, ESPN's Jay Bilas listed Brockman as one of the best rebounders in America.
It's also an attitude that Romar said has carried over to the rest of the team -- if only by necessity.
'You've got to be tough to survive if you're going up against him in practice, or it's a bad deal for you,' Romar said at media day. 'You don't ever want to tell Jon to back off. Jon, that's just how he plays. That's who he is.'
That's why you'll never hear Suggs, Wallace, Bryan-Amaning or any of Brockman's other victims -- Wallace figures he's gotten everybody on the team at one point or another -- complain about the rough treatment.
'It's just Jon is a physical player,' Wallace said. 'He's got those elbows of his. We play a physical style of basketball and try to rebound hard. It just happens in practice. No hard feelings.'
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