After what he thought was his last time playing the sport he loves, Joel Brokenbrough of the Fullerton College Basketball team has turned what looked to be a career-ending injury, into just a speed bump on his road to playing Division I basketball.
The 6’6’’ sophomore forward was forced to medical redshirt all of last season, after suffering a torn ACL just weeks before the season tipped off. Entering last season, Brokenbrough was new at FC after having played his freshman year at a community college in Colorado.
Brokenbrough decided to transfer here after a friend from his home town in Virginia, who was playing basketball at FC, convinced him that he would find more opportunities as a Hornet.
His talent and athleticism immediately impressed Coach Smith, and gained respect from his teammates. His expectations were set high for last season, as he found his roll on the team and was projected to see a lot of minutes on the floor. With season just weeks away, things took a turn for the worse.
It was just another practice as the team was preparing for the season, when he was dribbling down the court, drove into the paint, hop-stepped to lay the ball in the basket, and came down wrong. He immediately knew something was tweaked, and the pain was excruciating. It was a torn ACL, with a healing process of around nine months.
“I thought it was over, and I would never be the same,” he said about the injury.
It was definitely an emotional day for the basketball program, but Brokenbrough wasn’t ready to call it quits. He was ready to go through the rehab for his knee, and nothing was going to stop him from getting back on the court. He had a vision in his head that he would someday play for a Division 1 school, and an injury wasn’t going to erase that vision.
After nine long months of building muscle back and trying to retrieve his balance an agility, he was finding other ways to improve his game. “I feel like I gained a lot of basketball IQ from watching the game, and now have more of a feel for the game,” Brokenbrough said. “I improved mentally.”
Obviously he wasn’t 100% when he started practicing again, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that his hard work ethic would get him back to where he once was.
“It was definitely a big help to have him back on the court. He adds another piece to the team,” said Sophomore point guard Amin Sahwani.
This season, Joel is averaging a team best 19.2 points per game and nearly 8 rebounds a game. Not only does his size allow him to dominate inside, but he isn’t a guy you want to leave open on the outside either. He has the ability to attack offensively in several ways, leaving a tough task for any defender that steps in front of him.
He attributes his offensive success to his teammates.
“My point guards have down a great job getting me involved and just taking what the defense gives me,” Brokenbrough said.
With the season ending soon, Brokenbrough won’t be wearing a Hornet’s uniform for much longer. “I want to go somewhere that I can immediately get playing time,” Brokenbrough said.
Some of the schools that have showed their interest in Brokenbrough Joel include Nebraska University (D1), Iona University (D1), Long Beach State (D1), Cal State Dominguez Hills (D2), and Cal State San Bernardino (D2).
He says that he currently is still not 100 percent healed from his injury, but is at about 90 percent.
“He was a beast before the injury, he came back and he’s still a beast,” said Coach Smith.
Brokenbrough is expected to play more of a wing or guard position at the next level. He will be surrounded with a lot of bigger players, and would have more opportunities at a guard position. To make the transition from forward to guard, he says he will need to improve his ball-handing and his outside jump-shot.
“I think he’ll fit in at the next level, he’s got a lot of upside to him, and he still is not done growing as a basketball player,” stated Coach Smith.
Wherever he decides to take his talents to, his future in basketball looks bright. His determination and ‘never quit’ mentality will bring out the best in him, just as it did at Fullerton College.
“Overall it’s been a great experience here, I have met some great teammates, and came across some great opportunities,” Brokenbrough said.