The most difficult season Izaiah Brockington ever had playing basketball?
It was the only one he wasn’t actually playing.
But it may have turned out to be his best season so far.
Brockington, a 2017 graduate of Archbishop Ryan High School, started his college career at St. Bonaventure. But after a successful freshman year, including helping the Bonnies make the NCAA Tournament, he decided to transfer to Penn State.
Now, things are going great, but in order to get on the court in meaningful games for the Nittany Lions, Brockington had to sit out a full season under NCAA rules. When it comes to basketball, just about everything comes easily for the sharpshooting guard who went to grade school at Resurrection, but not playing isn’t one of them.
“It hurt a lot because I just wanted to get out there to play and help the guys,” Brockington said. “I was working out with them, pushing them, but I couldn’t play. That was so tough. It was something new to me, I’m just used to going out and playing. Not playing was really hard.”
Difficult, but worth it.
Now that Brockington is back on the floor, he’s helping the Nittany Lions reach new heights.
Penn State opened the season with an 11-2 record, including a perfect 9-0 record at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions have wins over Georgetown, Syracuse, Wake Forest and Maryland, which was ranked No. 4 when it was beaten by Penn State.
Brockington is a big reason for its success.
He’s the sixth man on the team, playing an average of 21 minutes per game. He’s scoring just under 10 points per game, averaging about 3.5 rebounds and hands out about an assist per game. He’s second on the team in free throw percentage, hitting 74 percent from the line, and he’s still playing tenacious defense, averaging better than a steal per game.
Brockington came out of Ryan ready to play at the next level, and he proved that when he got minutes as a true freshman at Bonaventure. But he admits that a year working with the Nittany Lions helped prepare him for what he’s doing now.
“I think I was able to learn a lot and get better,” Brockington said. “It was really hard, but I think it will be beneficial. I was able to learn a lot and get to know the team better.”
Brockington might be in his first year on the floor for Penn State, but he’s known some of the guys for year.
There are two Roman Catholic grads on the team, freshman Seth Lundy and senior Lamar Stevens. Having familiar faces has helped Brockington adjust to playing in Happy Valley.
“It’s going really well, we’re a close team, but you do have good chemistry with the guys who you’ve known before you got here,” Brockington said. “We have a bond because we played in the Catholic League. We know what we had to do and what it’s like to play in that league, so we are close.”
Brockington likes having the support of his teammates, and ever since he got to Penn State, he’s been getting a warm reception from those at the school. Penn State fans love their football, but they’re starting to love basketball, too.
“You get out here and you definitely know right away that Penn State is a football school, but we’re starting to get a lot of support, too,” Brockington said. “We’re trying to make it a basketball school. We’re ranked, it’s the first time in a long time, and people are starting to notice.
“I love Penn State. It’s a lot different than Philly, or Ryan, and it’s a lot different than St. Bonaventure, which is a lot different. Penn State is huge, but it doesn’t seem that big. I see a lot of people, you get to know people, and it’s a great community.”
His fellow students aren’t the only familiar faces Brockington sees, especially at games. It’s a three-hour ride from his Philly home, but he still has his fans in the stands.
“It’s great because it’s not that far, so they’re able to get here for a lot of games,” Brockington said. “I love that. They support me. My family, and my friends.”
On Saturday, Brockington had a chance to play in front of his hometown when the Nittany Lions met Iowa at the Palestra, a place he led the Raiders to twice during his high school career. Brockington scored a career-high 23 points in Penn State’s win.
“Playing at the Palestra, in high school, it was some of the best memories I have about playing,” Brockington said. “And I love playing in Philly. I’ll see a lot of people, I like that. It’s a big game, and I’m happy it’s in Philly.”
Brockington is doing more than helping Penn State on the court. He’s also excelling in the classroom, where he is studying labor and employment relations.
So far, it’s been a perfect fit for the former business major.
“Since I’m a transfer, I couldn’t get into the business school, so I looked at this and I thought it was great,” Brockingto said. “There are a lot of ways you can go. I’ve learned about race relations and business law. I’m learning a lot and it’s very interesting.”
It will be interesting to see what Penn State does with the rest of its season.
The team is firing on all cylinders right now, and ready for the tough Big Ten schedule. Brockington still has two years left after this one, but he’s focused on this one. The hope is he gets to go back to the tournament.
“I just want to get our seniors into the tournament and give them a chance,” Brockington said. “That’s our goal. They deserve to go to the tournament. They’ve done so much here.
“I’ll definitely help them because I’m the only one on the team who has played in the tournament. I learned a lot, just by going. It’s a great experience and I want everyone to have it.”