ST. LOUIS — Darren Brooks, SIU's Mr. Everything in the early 2000s, never forgot how everyone in Carbondale showed up at the Williamson County Regional Airport shortly after midnight nearly 16 years ago.
The Salukis had just gotten by Georgia, 77-75, in Chicago on March 17 to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
"I remember after we played Georgia in the NCAA Tournament, we got to the airport in Marion and we see all these people," Brooks said. "We go inside and see almost the whole town of Carbondale there at 1 in the morning, celebrating with us, high-fiving, taking pictures, that newspaper print 'Sweet 16.' It was incredible. The fans were always there for us and for me."
Brooks, the only player in Missouri Valley Conference history to win the league's player of the year award and defensive player of the year award in the same season twice, was inducted into the Valley Hall of Fame Friday. Brooks was part of a six-person class that included track and field star Christian Goy of Illinois State, former softball player Dani Tyler of Drake, former Bradley runner Mary Ellen Hill-Schupbach and administrators Lois Patton of Evansville and Bill Rowe of Missouri State.
The St. Louis native helped SIU to four MVC regular-season championships, four NCAA Tournament appearances, and three wins in the Big Dance. The Salukis earned two of them in 2002 as an 11 seed, knocking off Texas Tech and Georgia before falling to Connecticut in Syracuse, New York, to finish 28-8.
Brooks scored 1,761 points, sixth all-time in Saluki history, grabbed 673 rebounds (13th in school history) and set the school's steals record at 258 between 2001-05. His 410 career assists rank fourth in school history, and his 77 blocks are tied with Kenny Perry (1984-85) for ninth all-time.
Already a member of the SIU Hall of Fame, the Salukis' All-Century Team and the Valley's Centennial Team, Brooks became just the 13th member of the MVC Hall of Fame from the Carbondale campus. Brooks became only the sixth player from SIU to be inducted into the Valley's Hall of Fame, joining Walt Frazier, Mike Glenn, outfielder Steve Finley, former quarterback Jim Hart and former thrower Connie Price-Smith.
The Salukis went 106-28 during his four years, 62-10 in the MVC, and lost one home game out of 56. Charlotte defeated SIU 64-59 on Jan. 2, 2004.
Brooks is currently a K-12 teacher and athletic director in the Dallas area, where he lives with his wife, Danielle, and four daughters, Darionne, Nevaeh, Niah and Nadiah. Brooks also coaches the boys and girls basketball teams and operates his own hoops academy, Brooks Basketball Academy.
Notes: Top-ranked Loyola advanced to today's tournament semifinals with a hard-fought, 54-50 win over ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the first game of the day Friday. Isaiah Brown had a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but missed everything with his 3-point attempt. ... Bradley topped Drake when senior forward Donte Thomas put back a miss in the final seconds. Bulldog guard De'Antae McMurray missed a three-quarter-court heave off the bracket at the horn that would have won the game for Drake. ... Goy, who grew up in Germany, FaceTimed his acceptance speech for the MVC Hall of Fame so his parents could watch it.