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Gilbert's Brochu: Big Man, Big Game

POSTED February 12, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                         Gilbert’s Brochu:  Big Man, Big Game

              WINSTED - It was in eighth grade that the Gilbert School’s Austin Brochu figured he could be pretty good at this basketball game that heats up the cold winter months and breathes life into area gyms.

            “Mr. Douglass (Gilbert coach Mark) came to watch me play in a Route 44 Recreation League game and he left at halftime. I had 20 points,” remembers Brochu.

            Both saw a future of promise. A scant three years down the road, neither has been disappointed. The only downside to Brochu’s development has come from the opposition. They have to play against him and he is only a junior. That idea upsets more than a few BL stomachs.

            At 6-foot-4, 205 lbs. Brochu is one of the BL’s big men with one of the biggest games.  A maddening matchup problem that combines the ability to trade body blows under the basket and  the talent to torch you with a feathery touch from beyond the arc.

            Northwestern got a taste of the brawn earlier in the season when Brochu victimized the Highlanders with one of the BL’s best individual performances this season, a 21-point, 22-rebound gem.

            Nonnewaug got a taste of the touch when a clearly hobbled Brochu after hyperextending his knee took his game to the outside and finished with four three-pointers and 16 points much to the chagrin of the Chiefs boisterous student cheering section.   

            The outside touch came early, the inside game is one part size-dictated and learned.

            “When I was younger I was the small one on the court,” said Brochu. “Dad (Gerry) always had me shooting and I was always playing on a wing.”

            The early shooting prowess would add a dangerous diversity to Brochu’s game. Then the old growth spurt kicked in (dad is about 6-foot-3 or so and mom Lisa was part of a powerful forward duo with Sue Emond for coach Craig Schroeder’s outstanding Gilbert’s teams two decades ago) and Brochu’s game took another turn.

             He sprouted up to 6-feet in eighth grade and suddenly his size demanded an inside game to go with the outside touch.

            “In eighth grade Austin took a lot of outside shots, he thought he was a guard,” laughs Douglass.  “When he came up as a freshman we told him he couldn’t go outside the three-point line.  We wanted to toughen him up. I think it was a hard transition at first but we told him if he wanted to make All-BL and All-State he had to have an inside game.”

            Interestingly enough if Brochu’s outside aerial assault is what gives his game the added elevated level and makes it difficult to defend Gilbert, it is the inside play that he really enjoys. Douglass taught him a baby hook and he likes to be where the action is.

             “I’d rather be down low,” said Brochu. “I love rebounding and putting in a nice hook shot over a guy.”

              There is Brochu’s 16.3 average and more than 10 boards a game that tells a statistical story on a team that also features rapidly rising guard sophomore guard Robert Skinner and senior speedster Elide Romero.

              It is a good story, but there is a heck of a chance it will get better. There things to work on.

             “Now Austin is an inside-outside threat. We want to make him a better ball-handler,” said Douglass. “We want him to be able to do more off the dribble which will make him a triple threat. Defensively, instead of trying to block shots he needs to improve his footwork.”

             Brochu agrees.

             “I can improve my ball handling 100 percent and that can open more doors. I can start driving,” said Brochu.

            In the meantime there is plenty to be done this season.

            Douglass wasted little time deliberating about what his team needs to emerge on top from what has been a four-team tug of war for the Berkshire League title that includes Nonnewaug (14-2), Northwestern Regional (12-4) and Litchfield (12-4).

            It was in fact, kind of a no-brainer – Austin Brochu.

            “(Austin) had to be back for Litchfield, Nonnewaug and Northwestern,” We have to have him back to beat those teams especially Regional,” said Douglass.

            Gilbert’s two losses this season came against Nonnewaug when Brochu was hurt and against Shepaug when Brochu was sidelined. The results and his absence are not separate entities.

            In delicious scheduling break for the fans, Gilbert (14-2) faces all three contending teams in its final games starting Monday night with a home game against the Chiefs and then contests at Northwestern Wed. night and at Litchfield Feb. 23.

            Brochu’s injury against Nonnewaug has kept him sidelined for the last two weeks and he was expected to see his first action against Thomaston Saturday night.  He suffered some bruising and had some fluid on the knee, forcing therapy.

            There may be a bit of rust and but one thing is certain. Brochu’s presence is mandatory if there is to be another banner hanging in the Gilbert gym.

            Here’s also another downer for the rest of the BL. Not only do you get Brochu for another season, you get him for another sport. On the mound, he throws in the 80s for the Yellowjackets’ baseball team. He likes baseball better than basketball.

            Now doesn’t that make you feel good. It’s got Gilbert feeling really good.   

            The BL title will be decided in the next 10 days. Mark down one thing – Austin Brochu will have something to say about it. And then we get to do it again next year.  Douglass and Brochu knew it could be this good back in the eighth grade

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