Izaiah Brockington (above) will be a freshman at St. Bonaventure this fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Izaiah Brockington knew he was leaving Philadelphia to go to school in the middle of August.
And up until two weeks ago, he knew he was heading to Connecticut, to go to prep school at Woodstock Academy, after finishing off a terrific four-year run at Northeast Philly’s Archbishop Ryan. He’d picked up a few offers since de-committing from NJIT in the spring, but nobody that really caught his attention to make him think otherwise.
Then St. Bonaventure came into the picture.
Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt and staff were impressed by Brockington during a tournament in Las Vegas, and extended an offer to the 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard midway on July 28.
“They had asked me if I was I open to coming this year, and I told them yeah; I said I was planning on going to prep school, and then coming out in 2018, I was really leaning towards that,” Brockington said. “They were okay with that, they said the offer would still be there next year, but they said they wanted to have me as soon as possible and get to develop me and get me to be there playing already, this year.”
So Brockington took an under-the-radar official visit to the school this past week, flying up to Buffalo, where he was met by Schmidt himself for the 90-minute drive down to Olean, N.Y. Over the two days he was there, he met with school officials, toured the campus, saw the classrooms, the Reilly Center.
And he was sold.
Brockington made his commitment to the Bonnies later that week, though he didn’t make his decision public until Tuesday, announcing it with a Tweet and a video.
“It was a lot of thinking on my part, just weighing the pros and the cons,” he said. “I was going to prep school to get my buzz with colleges higher, get my stock higher, but then an A-10 school comes around, around the level that I was trying to go to prep school to get...when they came around and said that I could play immediately, that was definitely a big reason why I chose to go this year.”
Bonaventure wasn’t the only A-10 program to offer Brockington in the closing days of the July live recruiting periods; La Salle also offered, joining Kennesaw State, Hartford, Brown, Towson and Robert Morris as schools that had extended scholarship since Brockington had re-opened his recruitment.
All of them had said he was welcome to attend in 2017, though they were happy to wait a year for the athletic left-hander, whose above-the-rim finishes and 3-point shooting ability propelled him to average 18.6 ppg as a senior, earning PIAA Class 6A First Team All-State honors.
What led Bonaventure to win out in his recruitment, Brockington said, was that “the coaches were really selling me on going to the school and they were really planning, they put together a plan of how they were going to use me and what they saw for me, and my potential,” also mentioning the school’s recent success and ability to send players off to the pros.
Brockington will be joining a Bonaventure team that’s coming off a 20-12 season (11-7 Atlantic 10), the program’s second in a row and third in six seasons under Schmidt, who’s entering his 11th season at the helm. The Bonnies return plenty of firepower, including senior guards Jaylen Adams (20.6 ppg) and Matt Mobley (18.5 ppg), who both played north of 37 minutes per game last year.
Despite that, Brockington said he’s been told by the coaching staff that minutes are available for him in the backcourt, and had the same message confirmed on his official visit.
“Talking to the players, the players were just confirming everything that the coaches were saying,” he said. “They just said coach (Schmidt) is all about winning, it’s not about age or anything, he just wants to win. They said there’s no politics with him, if you’re out-playing somebody, then you’re going to play over them.”
It’s a quick change in mentality for Brockington, going from thinking he would be spending the next 12 months working on his craft at the prep level to suddenly being just weeks away from trying to help a top-100 Division I program get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, its only previous appearance under Schmidt.
He’s comfortable with that pressure, though, having taken Ryan to the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals in back-to-back years as a junior and senior after the Raiders hadn’t been since 2008. As a senior, Ryan made it all the way to the PIAA state semifinals before losing to Miami’s Lonnie Walker and Reading at Temple’s Liacouras Center.
Now that he’s gotten a taste of that big-game atmosphere, he’s ready to feel it every time on the court.
“They’re like the premier sports team out there in that area, every home game is packed and they’ve got fans that travel with them away, and their gym is always big, always loud,” Brockington said of a Bonaventure home-court advantage that’s become noted in the A-10 and beyond. “I felt like I was more prepared than maybe some of the other guys on that team because I had played at the Palestra and I’m looking forward to playing in that environment.”