Family first: Anton Brookshire’s strong values and work ethic land him roster spot

The first commit of the 2021 basketball team details how basketball stretches farther than just the court.

Five years ago, Anton Brookshire watched as his AAU basketball team played the final game of their tournament from the bench. Parents of other players on the team would ask his coach and uncle, Robert Yanders, why he wouldn’t start his own nephew. Yanders confidently told them that Brookshire just wasn’t ready.

On the car ride home, a frustrated Brookshire asked Yanders what it would take for him to get back out on that court.

Yanders responded with two words: “365 days.”

“You have to be able to go through sufferance to be successful,” Yanders said. “(Brookshire) wasn’t ready then, so I told him that it would take 365 days of hard work in the gym every day to get to that level.”

Those words rang in Brookshire’s head; compelling him to do better, to be better. The next morning, he and his uncle began 5 a.m. workouts for ball handling, shooting, passing and every fundamental in the book, and the moment he got back from school he was right back in the gym.

Yanders said that once the two of them really got started, it was Brookshire who took the reins of the training program and dragged Yanders to the gym every morning because he loved the work so much.

Brookshire’s aspirations to be great, to push his limits, are what got him out of bed every morning and kept him in the gym till sunset.

“There’s never going to be an end to the training: there is no ceiling,” Brookshire said. “I always want more. I'm like a little kid with a toy; once I get one toy, I got to have another toy.”

In the five years that followed the AAU game, Brookshire earned the starting point guard spot on Kickapoo High School’s varsity team as a freshman, became an all-state athlete and willed his team into the MSHAA final four. Most recently, though, he proudly announced his commitment to play basketball for the Tigers in 2021.

As a player, Brookshire considers himself a leader on the court. In fact, he has already made it a priority to reach out to other recruits in his class to build personal relationships with them because, to him, camaraderie within the team stretches further than the court.

Brookshire mentioned that he has reached out specifically to future teammate Sean Durugordon and current Kickapoo teammate and soon-to-be Tiger teammate Trevon Brazile. He has talked to both of them about their family’s health in this pandemic and about future training plans.

His team-first approach has always been a big part of his game, as he feels that, while he won’t be always able to control the offense, he can still prioritize communication with his teammates and make sure everyone is on time to execute the game plan.

That thinking stems from his uncle’s tutelage. Yanders and the rest of Brookshire’s family taught him from a young age to always be valuable to others, to be a team-first kind of player.

“Teams need a guy that’s going to be valuable to the community, to the university and is going to wear that sweater proudly,” Yanders said.

His loyalty and his dedication to his team was exemplified when Brookshire lost his mother to a battle with lupus. Brookshire was there for his mother every step of the way, getting up every morning and making her hot tea before he went to school, and Brookshire considered her the person he was most closest to.

When she passed, Brookshire took his pain and anguish and still went out onto the court to help push his team through the playoffs because he knew that there were people still relying on him to produce.

“If my mom was here, she would want me to keep playing and play hard every day so I can keep going, and I use that as motivation,” Brookshire said.

For Brookshire, it truly is all about family. After moving to Springfield, Missouri with Yanders, he surrounded himself with his other uncles and family to help him reach that next level. Brookshire is so thankful to have such a supporting family to count on that he regularly tells them after games just how thankful he is to have them in his life.

“Anton called me and his uncle Sylvester after his game to tell us how much he loves us and how thankful he is to have us, and I was damn near tears I swear,” Yanders said.

With his close family ties, Brookshire and Yanders were most concerned with finding a team that had that strong sense of family unity. Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin would prove that to them in an outlandish way.

“He called my mother; he called Anton’s grandmother,” Yanders said. “He wanted to know (Brookshire’s) roots, his history; he wanted to know what Grandma and Grandpa thought about Anton.”

According to Yanders, Martin already knew that Brookshire could play basketball — his 20.5 points per game said enough — but Martin wanted to know what was in his heart.

Martin reportedly made it clear to Brookshire and Yanders that the University of Missouri is about family, and that he was looking for a recruit to embody that.

“Martin wanted a guy who would run through a brick wall for them,” Brookshire said.

Already, the coaching staff has been making weekly calls to the Brookshire household which have made them feel a part of something much bigger than they could ever imagine.

For now, however, Brookshire’s loyalty has him focused on leading Kickapoo to a championship as he sits in excitement to join the MU family, but he’s most excited to join the team that his mother loved so much.

“I know she’s looking down on me and smiling,” Brookshire said. “I know she is.”

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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