Nineteen years removed from his Gonzaga debut, the wide-eyed experience still resonates with Spokane Police officer Winston Brooks.
A sure-handed point guard and transfer from nearby North Idaho College, Brooks often played in low-spirit, crackerbox gymnasiums, a gulf from the University of Illinois’ raucous, 15,500-seat Assembly Hall.
When Gonzaga – then a relatively obscure NCAA Tournament darling aiming for a fourth-straight appearance – opened its season on the road against the No. 3 Illini, it was baptism by fire for the Virginia native.
The sea of orange was overwhelming.
“We go out for the layup line, and there’s thousands of people screaming,” Brooks said of the Nov. 16, 2001, game, a 76-58 loss. “It was loud. I had never played in that kind of environment before.”
Brooks conveyed the similarities of playing in a hostile road environment and being an officer in a volatile climate, one currently spurred by a