Fri Jun 10th, 2016
Special to the Drum
IHS grad also a proud FLC grad
With fans and supporters gathered to watch their team’s progress in the 2016 NCAA Division II Basketball Tournament, chicken wings flying out the kitchen of Durango’s Cuckoos Chicken House & Waterin’ Hole had a hard time keeping pace with each Fort Lewis College flight up and down the court.
Unfortunately a National Championship eluded the hungry ’Hawks; after downing 7-seed Dallas Baptist University 95-87 in the South Central Region’s quarterfinals on March 12, 2-seed FLC succumbed to 16-seed Angelo State University, 87-66 in the following afternoon’s regional semifinals – inside Wichita Falls, Texas-based Midwestern State’s D.L. Ligon Coliseum – to finish a most historic winter.
And with it, the undergraduate student-athlete career of 2011 Ignacio graduate Ryan Brooks, who went on to receive his Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering during the second of Fort Lewis’ two Spring Commencement ceremonies upon the familiar hardwood of Whalen Gymnasium the morning of Saturday, April 30.
“It all just came together,” said the 6’8”, 220-pound forward of the experience receiving his sheepskin. “Getting to play basketball in front of the home crowd, getting to study engineering … and being up there, thinking how far I’ve come since high school – it was surreal.”
“I’m coming up on a couple interviews,” he continued, “so we’ll see where that takes me, jobwise!”
Finishing with a school-most 28 victories – including a regular-season record 24 – against a school-least four defeats, the Skyhawks also achieved a new level of national recognition: A final regular-season #4 ranking, the highest in team history, in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll (issued 3/8) prior to postseason play.
And of course, everything in the 2015-16 campaign commenced with a stunning exhibition road win, 77-69 in overtime, at Division I University of Wyoming, the defending Mountain West Conference Tournament champs.
“There were a lot of questions going in after Chief (former FLC center and IHS alumnus Alex Herrera) left. But we knew that we had good guards and other players returning,” recalled Brooks, “and Coach (Bob Pietrack) kept saying, ‘Let’s beat ’em! Let’s show ’em that we can play!’ and ‘Let’s make this a season to remember!’”
“We went out there and played our game, and I think that really set us up for the rest of the season!”
Though he saw no action in Fort Lewis’ final five contests, Brooks finished his senior season having played in 16 games (zero starts) for Pietrack, the NABC South Central Region Coach-of-the-Year. He totaled six points (0.4 per) on 2-of-11 shooting from the field (0-5 3-PT) and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line, grabbed eight rebounds, had one assist and one steal, and committed 15 fouls as the Skyhawks captured the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
Bringing a grade-point average approaching 3.5 to the crew, Brooks (along with redshirt-freshman Alex Semadeni) earned RMAC All-Academic Honor Roll status – having carried at least a 3.3 as an active student for at least two consecutive semesters or three consecutive quarters prior to Fall 2015.
Two of a select group of ten, sophomore Rasmus Bach and junior Will Morse were named RMAC First Team All-Academic by the conference’s sports information directors using the same requirements (those who met them, but were not voted First Team, automatically qualified for Honor Roll distinction).
“It was awesome, these past five years,” Brooks said, reflecting upon his entire collegiate student-athlete experience. “I mean, just building up to it, then getting to go to the Tournament, and enjoying everything … with teammates I’m going to be friends the rest of my life with. It was awesome.”