Editor’s note: “Remember When?” is a series highlighting the area’s most memorable performances, whether it be a game, season or individual player performance.
Sometimes what some consider an incredible performance is just another day at the office to others.
For Herbie Brooks, that was the case on a late March Friday in 1983.
It was the day Brooks, a junior at Mullens, set the basketball state tournament record for points in a game with 50 against Parkersburg Catholic.
Brooks’ accomplishment is one he achieved before the introduction of the 3-point line, and 36 years later the record still holds up.
“I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis,” Brooks said. “If I watch a game, and a guy is scoring a lot, it naturally comes to mind. When I go to high school games and guys score it comes to mind, and when I’m at the state tournament, but other than that I don’t think that much about it. I have a friend of mine, John ‘Soup’ Campbell, who was our point guard and it’s a running joke. He’ll tell people when we’re together, ‘Did I tell you about the time Brooks and I combined for 52 in a state tournament game? He scored 50 and I scored two,’ is what he says.”
Though many know the tale of the record, with Brooks’ points leading to an 87-69 win over the Crusaders, few know that he nearly never had the opportunity to produce on that stage.
Battling the flu the week before during regionals, Brooks, who averaged over 30 points per game through the regular season, scored 30 points in the two regional games combined.
“I felt good in the state tournament, but it took me a week to get back in shape,” Brooks said. “The two regional games I had flu symptoms. I struggled and didn’t play well and honestly, we should’ve lost to Oakvale in the regional championship. I remember the game now. Oakvale had a kid named John Meadows and he busted us up all night with that 15-foot jumper.
“It came down to the end of the game and we were up a point. John got a good look at it from 16 feet out, that same shot he had beat us with all night, and missed it, but that wasn’t even the worst part. They get an offensive rebound off John’s miss, and the kid who got it, Charles Walker, missed the putback.”
With a lackluster effort week behind him, Brooks and the rest of the Rebels, led by head coach Don Nuckols, set out to eliminate any doubt in the state tournament. They did so quickly.
The Rebels’ offensive game consisted of pushing the ball up and down the court, something Brooks, an eventual Division I athlete at WVU, benefitted from.
“In high school, we didn’t have the 3-point line,” Brooks said. “Even if we did, the shots I made in that time, I may have shot maybe one or two 3s in a game. We averaged 90 a game. We loved to push the ball and run and take advantage of our speed and chemistry. For me, and in that game, I shot a lot of layups. We ran what coach Nuckols called a roam offense. I roamed around and shot baseline shots and that suited my game really well.
“We got in transition on them. We ran on them. They probably had never seen us except maybe on film. I was able to get easy looks up and down the floor.”
Nuckols was prepared to utilize Brooks while also exposing what he considered to the Crusaders’ weakness.
“He’s (Brooks) not an inside player,” Nuckols told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph after the game. “But I had scouted Catholic and I knew they had an excellent shooting team and a great transition game. I felt their inside game was their weakness. We wanted to get the ball inside to both Herbie and Jeff Mullins. Our goal was to keep getting inside.”
Brooks kept taking advantage of the strategy Nuckols devised, but during all of the action, he never stopped to think about what the record was. In fact, up until the 2:04 mark of the fourth quarter, when he had 42 points, neither he nor his team were aware of what was going on. It wasn’t until a stranger tapped Nuckols on the back, informing him that Brooks was seven points away from tying the then-record of 49, held by Glenville’s Jack Conrad (1941) and Leo Byrd (1955).
That was when Nuckols called a timeout to discuss the record.
“It meant the world to me that he let me stay in there,” Brooks said. “This is how it went down. I came out of the game, somebody tapped him on the shoulder, he called a timeout. Before that I didn’t even think about what I had. I had a few games that year where I scored 30 and 40 points in a game, so I didn’t think much of it.
“Coach told us what was going on and asked my teammates if they wanted me to get the record. They said absolutely. And that’s how it went down. They were so happy for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with. That was probably the highlight of my career — not scoring the 50, but playing with those guys. I’m still close with most of them. We played together all the way from fourth grade to high school, so it was special to get that vote of confidence from them.”
Brooks’ unselfish nature was further highlighted in the box score, as well as in the praise he received from college coaches. He finished with a game-high six assists, shooting an efficient 21-of-35 from the field with eight free throws.
“Frankie Allen, who was with Virginia Tech at the time, came up to me after the game,” Brooks said. “He told me that was probably the most unselfish 50-point game he’d ever seen and gave me a laminated copy of the score sheet.”
Now that 36 years have passed, Brooks thinks a little more of the performance now than he did in 1983, partially because he’s had time to understand what it meant to those who witnessed it.
“It’s aged lot better for me,” Brooks said. “We didn’t have social media or anything then, so it didn’t seem like it was that big of a deal. People congratulated you, but the craziest moment happened when I went off the court. They announced the record over the speakers and the hosts at the Civic Center had me walk back on the court for a standing ovation.
“To this day I hear it from different people in all walks of life. People will see me and they’ll introduce me to their kids and grandkids and tell the story, especially at the state tournament and tell the story of where they were in the stands. It’s special to be a part of that.”
Is Brooks surprised the record has lasted 36 years? Absolutely.
He’s witnessed some of the best athletes the state has ever produced take the same stage and threaten the record, and he even remembers some of those performances. But as the years go on and the game changes, he feels the window to score 50 or more has closed.
“O.J. (Mayo) could’ve had it,” Brooks said. “He went on to play in the NBA and was a top pick. He played around and nearly broke it, so he definitely could’ve had it. To me, outside of Mayo, the closest one to it was P.G Green and he missed a few dunks that could’ve broke it. Greg Davis from Tug Valley had about 34 at halftime at one time.
“To me, I think it’d be harder to break the record with the 3-point line. You’ve got to shoot pretty well from the field. If you’re shooting that many 3s, you’re not getting to the line. Say you make 10 3-pointers, you’re probably taking about 20 shots to make them, and those are misses you could be putting up closer to the basket. If you were to start nailing that many 3-pointers, coaches are going to start doubling you and running you off the ball to take that away, so it’d be hard to do today.”
Mullens capped the 1983 Class A state tournament with a 68-56 win over Huntington Vinson, claiming its second title in as many years. In 1984, Brooks, a senior, led the Rebels to the state tournament again, going a perfect 3-for-3 for his career as the program claimed its third straight title. Following graduation, Brooks moved on to play college basketball at WVU.
“Those are all memories I’ll always cherish,” Brooks said. “The individual accomplishments were great, but having a great team and community to share them with are what I’ll always remember.”
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