Darmain Brooks was raised in the heart of South Memphis.
He’d be the first to admit he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in the poverty-stricken neighborhood.
“I don’t want to stay around this neighborhood,” Brooks told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I want to make something of myself.”
To his credit, the 17-year-old Brooks, who recently wrapped up what was a productive junior season for Memphis’ City University School of Liberal Arts, is using basketball as an outlet to vacate one of the poorest communities in inner-city Memphis.
Brooks is the starting point guard for City University. Though he stands at just 5-foot-4, he has had arguably the biggest impact for a relatively new prep basketball program that is still in search of its identity.
“They said I wasn’t going to be able to do certain things (on the basketball court),” Brooks said. “People always ask me what do I have as a backup plan. I want to do business management.”
If nothing else, Brooks certainly has been handling business on and off the court at City University. For starters, he boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.0. And on the court, he has demonstrated to have been difficult to contain, having evolved into one Shelby-Metro’s most efficient players, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
Brooks leads City University in scoring, averaging better than 24 points per game. Arguably his grandest moments this past season was when the speedy guard caught fire against Oakhaven during a regular season contest when he scored a career-high 48 points. That performance was proceeded by his 50-point outburst in a preseason game against Rosa Fort of Tunica, Miss.
Not bad for a young, gifted athlete who, despite the lack of exposure in recent years, will likely come under the radar among college scouts this summer while on the AAU circuit.
As for the naysayers who said he would not create such a buzz at a school such as City University, Brooks said, “I don’t pay attention to it. I just go out there and be myself. Whatever my teammates need me to do, I do it, whether it’s scoring points, playing defense, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a coach I can relate to.”
That coach is non-other-than former Whitehaven High star and University of Arkansas standout Ron Huery. Ranked 12th on the Razorbacks all-time scoring list, Huery was a member of Arkansas’ 1990 Final team. Eleven years removed from having earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Arkansas, Huery decided to take up coaching, which enabled him to cross paths with Brooks.
As Huery tells it, the skills and basketball IG of his starting point guard reminds him of Andre Turner, the former Memphis State star whose basketball prowess earned him the nickname, “The Little General” in the mid-1980s.
As Brooks recalls, he was playing a pickup game two years ago at a gymnasium near the old fairgrounds when, suddenly, Huery walked in and noticed him having his way with opposing — and taller — players.
The two have been virtually inseparable ever since. Nowadays, Huery accompanies Brooks to and from practice.
“When I first met (Brooks), I knew this kid was special,” Huery said. “He’s a smaller Andre Turner. That’s all I saw after working with him last (summer). I have seen him develop his game into an amazing scorer. The great part about bonding with this kid is that he continues to work super hard as a student athlete.”
Indeed he has.
Not only has Brooks proven to be the facilitator on the floor, but he is just as assertive off the court, given he boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.0. In a nutshell, the sky’s the limit for this soft-spoken kid who has evolved into what mother, Jennifer Vinson, deems a “gym rat” ever since her son began playing competitive basketball as a toddler.
“No one taught him how to shoot a ball, to dribble a ball,” Vinson said. “He’s been doing this since he was one (years old). He used to drag his little goal outside and play.”
Today, however, Brooks has become a fixture in gyms throughout the Bluff City, a trend he believes will ultimately serve as his outlet out of South Memphis. Among his objectives as he prepares for his senior season at City University is to put himself in position to land an athletic scholarship, something he believes will ultimately come to fruition as long as he continues to exhibit a resilient work ethic.
“I’m serious about it,” Brooks said. “I don’t go out there and play it like most people do. I mean, I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid.”
Fortunately for him, he was determined not to allow his 5-foot-4 inch frame stop him.