A sitting Duck vs. Huskies
Oregon guard Aaron Brooks said Tuesday he "can't sit there and dwell" on the forearm he threw to the chin of Washington's Ryan Appleby during...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Oregon guard Aaron Brooks said Tuesday he "can't sit there and dwell" on the forearm he threw to the chin of Washington's Ryan Appleby during the Pac-10 tournament last March, a play that figures to forever cast him in a negative light among some area basketball fans.
But Thursday, he won't have much of a choice.
As the final part of the punishment for that forearm that required six stitches in Appleby's upper lip, Brooks, a Franklin High School grad, will sit out Thursday's 8 p.m. game against the Huskies at Edmundson Pavilion.
Brooks will likely watch the game at his mom's house as he will not be allowed in the arena.
It's a potentially costly absence for the Ducks, who are surprisingly battling for the Pac-10 title with Brooks leading the way. UW coach Lorenzo Romar, in fact, said Tuesday that Brooks would have his vote as conference Player of the Year if the season ended today.
"I'm just happy that he [Appleby] is all right," Brooks said Tuesday to reporters in Eugene [he wasn't allowed to speak to reporters from Seattle]. "If that's my punishment for it, then that's fine."
Actually, the initial punishment was lighter. Brooks was immediately thrown out of the game after the incident, which came with 10 minutes remaining in the first half of a quarterfinal game in the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles. Oregon went on to win 84-73 and Brooks was then suspended for the semifinal game against California, a contest the Golden Bears won in two overtimes.
Oregon @ UW, Edmundson Pavilion, 8 p.m., FSN
But after UW athletic director Todd Turner asked the conference to review the punishment, Oregon athletic officials decided Brooks would also miss the team's season opener on Nov. 10 against Lehigh and Oregon's game at Washington.
"He'll do everything but go to the game," said Oregon coach Ernie Kent. "He'll certainly be there with us for our shootaround and our team meetings. I'll let him go home and get some of mom's good cooking during the game and watch us on TV and meet us at the hotel when it's done."
Appleby said the cut has long since healed and that "I don't really have any hard feelings anymore" about the incident. However, he also echoed his sentiments at the time the punishment was announced last March that it was "weird" that Brooks was being suspended for the UW-Oregon game in Seattle but not the rematch in Eugene next month.
"You think that was maybe more for him because the fans would be on him, so that was the only thing to me I thought was a little peculiar," he said.
The two haven't spoken since, though Appleby did get a letter of apology from Brooks the night of the game. Appleby said Tuesday he still doesn't know why Brooks targeted him but said he has heard it was retaliation for Appleby swinging his elbows in an attempt to create some space moments earlier.
Brooks, who in past years would sometimes play pickup games with UW players during the summer, stayed away from the school this year.
And he acknowledged Tuesday that he knows the stigma of the incident figures to linger, even though he has put to rest many of the questions about his ability with a standout senior season. Brooks leads the Pac-10 in scoring at 18.4 points per game and scored the winning basket in victories over UCLA and Arizona.
Kent attributes much of Brooks' coming-out season to a new-found maturity based in part on becoming a father last spring. Brooks' girlfriend, Shavonne Bland, gave birth to daughter MiKah Lamaj Brooks last May and all three live together in Eugene.
"I think it weighed on me when it happened," Brooks said of the incident with Appleby. "I walked the longest mile off the court. It's going to stick with me the rest of my life, but you can't sit there and dwell on it."
Kent said junior guard Chamberlain Oguchi will start in place of Brooks, with freshman Tajuan Porter -- who has been starting alongside Brooks -- handling the bulk of the point-guard duties. It was Oguchi who caught fire after Brooks was kicked out of the tournament game against UW last March, scoring 22 points to lead the Ducks to victory.
The Ducks are 18-1 overall, the team's best start since the 1926-27 season, and 6-1 tied for first in the Pac-10 with UCLA.
The UW game, however, is the first of four in a row on the road that figures to go a long way toward determining whether the Ducks can stay in the title hunt for the long haul.
Brooks said he's confident his absence won't hurt his team.
"We've got great veteran leadership, so I'm not really concerned with who will step up," he said. "I know somebody will."