Some things just fall by the wayside.
No matter what happened before and what happens after, there are things that are simply intertwined, inevitable.
Eli Brooks and Vilanova are one such thing.
The five-year-old from Michigan grew up, fell in love with basketball and made a name for himself in Pennsylvania. The state is also home to the Wildcats, just a two and a half hour drive from Brooks hometown Spring grove.
Only a three-star recruit, Brooks was not on the radar of many schools. He collected offers mostly from such as American, Brown, Colgate and Delaware. But there were two teams that stood out from the list: Michigan and Vilanova.
He was just their type.
“I think both teams have a similar mission – to bring together really good athletes who know how to play the game right, (go) right into their academic lives,” former Michigan coach John Beilin told The Daily. “And as a result, they have a culture that has done nothing but win.”
Vilanova coach Jay Wright agrees.
“Excellent, wonderful child. Great family, “Wright said Wednesday.” That’s what we thought he would be. We thought he would be a four-year-old boy and a great player and a winner, a champion by the time he finishes. , a great basketball IQ, a brilliant student and a great competitor ”.
When it came to making a decision, only Brooks and his family knew what would happen.
There was only one prediction by 247Sports Crystal Ball as to where Brooks would end up; it was up to Vilanov. As Wright recalls, he had no idea where Brooks would go before calling to announce that he would be visiting Michigan. Bailey, who served as Brooks’ main recruiter, had no idea which school he would choose – so much so that he was surprised when Brooks told him he was coming to Ann Arbor.
“When I offered him a scholarship before Vilanova offered it to him, I said,“ I understand when Vilanova offers it to you, I understand why you went there. I understand. But I just want to let you know that if it doesn’t work out, we’re still here, “Beeline said. “So I heard that Vilanova offered him a scholarship, and said, ‘Oh, well, then you’re going to Vilanova.’ and he said, “No, I’m going to Michigan.”
“He surprised me. This restored why we recruited him. He understood Michigan, and he understood what we all mean. ”
According to Ellie’s father, James Brooks, it was all the rest that Michigan and Ann Arbor could offer that gave Wolverine an advantage in Ellie’s decision. Obviously, the basketball program mattered, but Ellie was getting “good basketball,” no matter where he committed.
This became clear by the end of his freshman year.
On April 2, 2018, Michigan was scheduled to meet Vilanova in San Antonio in a national championship match. Everything was on the line. No matter what, the two teams went home – either with a trophy or not.
Eli was only a freshman – a rotating piece for Wolverine during the season, but not yet the main guy. On the field opposite him was the same coach who recruited him, and all the teammates who could be are now rivals.
Hardly any of that was in his head.
“When you play in the championship, I don’t think you’re saying, ‘Man, I want to beat Villanov,'” Bailein said. “You’re trying to win the national championship.”
The wolverines, however, left San Antonio empty-handed. The Wildcats were ahead of them, taking them down with a score of 79-62. It was a terrible defeat. Not because it was Vilanova, but because Michigan came so close to the top and did not reach the final goal.
“So we were in the national championship no matter which way he decided,” James told The Daily. “It was a good position, it just turned out to be on the short end of that side.”
And although he had a short end to the championship, it wasn’t the only time Michigan and Eli saw the Wildcats in 2018.
Early in the second season Eli Michigan battled Willanova at the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Wolverines came out on top, destroying the Wildcats in a 73-46 victory. But it was no consolation for losing the national championship.
Neither team has made it to the championship game or the Final Four in the last four years. But Ellie is still from Michigan, no longer a player on the bench, but a top team leader and starting guard. Now Eli is not just describing the type of player that Vilanov and Michigan were looking for – he is the player.
“I saw him turn out so good and we thought he would be like that. That’s why we recruited him, “Wright said. “… I think Eli Brooks is one of the best security guards in the country. He is the winner. “
And on Thursday Eli and Vilanova will meet again, this time at Sweet Sixteen. This is not a national championship match, but the stakes remain high. Either Wolverine or the Wild Cats will be forced to return home after the bout, and the latter will continue their search for the title.
“I mean, for me it was two schools, so it’s a big match for me; to regain victory in the same place where we lost the national championship match, ”Eli said on Wednesday. “But I’m not going to do it personally. We are talking about the transition to the next round.
“It’s just Vilanova in San Antonio.”
It’s funny how it goes: Eli plays against a team he almost picked – the one that knocked him out of the first-year national championship – in the same city as this title game, in what could be his last game like Wolverine when they lose.
It just seems like fate.