By John Gerardi
The Daily Item
---- — There's a somewhat old cliche about needing a distraction in life. Sometimes things just get so hectic or stressful that you just need to take a little break.
Every now and then, that cliche can ring true in the sports world. Some may need the distraction of a game just to enjoy themselves. And then again, sometimes it's more than simply a distraction.
Sports occasionally are just needed to keep you focused on something else. That team bond you have can help you get through something by finding an outlet to stay on a positive road in life.
That's precisely what happened for Midd-West's Kahill Brooker.
In his own words, the senior guard had a few situations growing up that weren't exactly ideal. Not only was his father not around growing up, but he found himself constantly moving. He went from Philadelphia to Williamsport to Mechanicsburg back to Williamsport and then to the Midd-West School District.
They say that it isn't always the person that's bad, but the environment in which they live. It can have a negative influence on you. Essentially, that's what happened during his time in Williamsport. Brooker got mixed in with the wrong crowd and before he knew it, he had some unfortunate brushes with the law.
So the move to Midd-West worked out for the best and got Brooker out of the bad lifestyle that he found himself in Williamsport.
"I was influenced by a lot of things (in Williamsport)," Brooker said. "I'm focused on my school work and I'm doing the right thing now."
It was during this time that Brooker had a conversation with his mother, Andrea, and his older brother, Aaron, and the two brothers were talking about things he regretted not doing in high school.
One of them? Playing basketball. That regret turned into motivation for Kahill, who told his brother that he was going to play basketball, and his mom was behind his decision 100 percent.
"My mom, she's always been there for me. Anything I wanted to do she was always behind me," Brooker said.
The Mustangs' 6-footer hadn't ever played organized basketball before though. Heck, he rarely played period.
He never played in high school prior to this year, not even on a JV squad. He never played basketball in middle school either. His lone experience before he suited up this year for the Mustangs was when he was in sixth grade and played in a church basketball league in Williamsport for Antioch Baptist Church.
Even then though, Brooker didn't play the whole year and he hung up his basketball shoes before the season was even over.
But the senior always loved the game and was dedicated to it. So it's a bit interesting to see Brooker not only out on the court as a senior playing organized basketball for the first time this season for Midd-West, but playing like he's been doing it his whole life. Brooker is currently leading Midd-West in scoring with 117 points through 14 games, has a team-high 8.4 points per game, and also leads the Mustangs with 13 3-pointers.
But none of those stats really matter to Brooker. The only thing he cares about is seeing a 'W' in the book for his team.
"I never did this before so I said 'I'm going all out.' I go hard in practice, so I'm not really surprised that I do good. All I want to do is win; I just want to win," Brooker said. "I don't really care if I don't get no points (or) if I get 100 assists a game. I don't care. I just want to win games. That's all that really matters to me."
That team-first focus is what helps motivate other players on the Midd-West team, even though Brooker's only been there a year.
"Mentally, he's a really good (kid). He's got his head in practice, he's got his head in the game the whole time. He gets disappointed when the other guys are slacking, which they tend to do from time to time. He doesn't like that," Midd-West coach Brent Bobb said. "He's new to the school, new to the area, so he hasn't really emerged as a team leader yet, but if he was here for awhile, he certainly would be because he has that mentality, like, 'I'm working my butt off, I expect you to work your butt off too.' He's a real good ballplayer, no question about it. He does well in school (and) he's just an all-around good kid, too."
That natural talent that Brooker has shows in games. Through Midd-West's 13 games thus, Brooker's been a leading scorer in seven and close to the leading scorer in just about every other game.
"He brings a dimension to this team that we haven't had in the last couple years," Bobb said.
Brooker's playing for the love of the game, one that he's always been dedicated to and enjoyed, but sometimes basketball can be more than just a game. For Brooker, it definitely is.
"I actually want to further it (basketball). I really want to go to college," Brooker said. "I'm motivated now. I know I can do something. It's just, this is just the beginning. That's how I feel."
Hopefully it really is.
n Jon Gerardi covers boys basketball for The Daily Item. Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Jonidial.