Dillon Brooks feels “refreshed with Canadian blood” after tough year with Grizzlies

2023-09-03T20:47:09+00:00 2023-09-11T15:53:23+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

03/Sep/23 20:47


Canada swingman Dillon Brooks explained why being around with his national team has been revitalizing for him after a rough season with the Memphis Grizzlies.

By Antonis Stroggylakis / astroggylakis@eurohoops.net

Jakarta, Indonesia –  Before the World Cup knockout clash of Canada vs. Spain, Dillon Brooks had played many games in which he scored more or rebounded more and generally produced more according to the stats sheet.

But Dillon Brooks had never played a game before that could send Canada Basketball to the Olympic Games. Never played a game before that decided whether his national team would advance to the quarterfinals of a World Championship.

Brooks played that game Sunday (2/9). And the new Houston Rockets swingman delivered 22 points, five rebounds and heaps of tremendous, high-octane defense as Canada beat reigning world champion Spain in a thriller to advance to the Top 8 of the FIBA World Cup while punching a ticket to the 2024 Olympics.

This is a massive achievement for the Canadian basketball team. They hadn’t played in an Olympic tournament since 2000 and the last time they made the World Cup quarterfinals was in 1994, in the home territory of Toronto.

“Yeah. I feel like it,” Brooks said when Eurohoops asked him in the mixed zone if this was the best game of his career given what was at stake for his team.

“Special. One for the books,” Canada and Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander later commented during the post-game presser on Brook’s heroics. “He’s a leader. He does the right things on the basketball floor. He plays with the right energy. He was rewarded tonight from the basketball gods.” His teammate would crash the procedure a bit later, as Canada coach Jordi Fernandez asked him to join him and Shai.

A bit before, Brooks would essentially explain how being around the environment of the national team has rejuvenated him.

“Coming off a tough year with my old squad [the Memphis Grizzlies] it was great having a refresh with Canadian blood,” Brooks said. “Guys who believe in me. Guys who trust in me. It was great to win this game in a great fashion.”

Canada was trailing 61 – 73 to Spain at the end of the third quarter. They were 10 minutes away from a disastrous, early exit from the World Cup, given the great aspirations with which they entered the tournament and the expectations they created by beginning with three impressive wins over Lebanon, France and Latvia.

Brooks got locked in. He drained a triple to cut the deficit into single-digits and then buried another for the 73 – 69 with with 7:43 to play. All while being extremely active and aware on the defensive end, a menace for every opponent.

A couple of moments later, he drove to the basket to make it 76 – 71 and put the icing on his spectacular fourth period with the triple that tied the game at 80 with 1:19 remaining.

Gilgeous-Alexander would finish the job for Canada, capping his own new MVP performance of 30 points and seven assists.

“Not surprised,” said Canada forward RJ Barrett on Brooks’ display. “He’s been doing that his whole life. For him to have a game like that was huge.”

These guys are now Olympians and will parade in the Seine river of Paris next year with the entire Canadian delegation.

“It’s been my dream making the Olympics,” Brooks said. “Ever since I joined Team Canada in U16. I know from now we made a lot of Canadians proud. i know when we get back after figuring out how to win this gold it’s going to be great.”

Gilgeous-Alexander followed in his mother’s tradition. Charmaine Gilgeous represented Antigua and Barbuda in the 1992 Olympics, participating in Women’s 400 meters.

“She holds no more bragging rights,” Shai said. “In my whole life I knew what’s like going to the Olympics because of that. And I know the best athletes are there.”

Brooks attributes his eruption in the fourth period to feeling the faith his teammates had in him and the relentless support by the veterans. He specifically mentioned Unicaja Malaga big man Melvin Ejim who kept pushing and motivating the entire squad.

“Just trusting myself,” Brooks said. “My teammates were trusting me to make the plays. We were smaller, we are grittier. We wanted it badder. Melvin Ejim always kept us in a game with his voice. He was telling us ‘Who wants it more?’ Who wants it more. Thanks to him.”

When asked about Gilgeous-Alexander, Brooks particularly commended how his teammate handled the complex defensive schemes that the Spanish national team implemented to try containing him.

To no avail.

“He was composed the whole game,” Brooks said. “They were throwing everything at him. Box in one, double teams. He was patient in getting his buckets, finding guys with his assists. Overall great performance.”

Photo: FIBA Basketball