Izaiah Brockington is gearing up to follow in his father’s footsteps and compete in the NCAA tournament.
Antoine Brockington was a star for Coppin State twenty-five years ago. His son is now a star at Iowa State.
Izaiah Brockington used to go through his father’s CD booklet as a kid, meticulously searching through the vast, primarily music collection. He’d flick through sleeve after sleeve until he found the DVDs with his father’s collegiate basketball games towards the back of the booklet.
Coppin State’s upset of No. 2 seed South Carolina in the 1997 NCAA tournament was Brockington’s favorite DVD. Coppin won as a No. 15 seed in one of the biggest surprises in NCAA tournament history, with his father, Antoine Brockington, scoring 20 points. (The Coppin State team is featured in the On & Coppin documentary, which is currently available on ESPN+.)
Brockington, a self-proclaimed “daddy’s boy,” gets his chance this week to play the same role his father did in March Madness 25 years ago. The No. 11 seed Iowa State Cyclones face No. 6 seed LSU in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
Despite a 72-41 loss to No. 14 Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, the Cyclones qualified for the NCAA tournament by achieving the school’s and Big 12’s largest single-season turnaround, going from two wins a year ago to 20 victories this season. Brockington, who was selected Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and All-Big 12 first team after averaging 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds, has been a big part of the turnaround.
T.J. Otzelberger, in his first year as Iowa State’s head coach, described him as “a prolific scorer who does it in a variety of ways.” “People speak about his midrange shots, and the way he does it is absolutely unique. He can, however, take control of a game.”
His father, Antoine, who followed up that amazing 1997 season as a junior at Coppin with a 20.3 point per game average as a senior on his route to being named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, instilled in him the desire to dominate games offensively.
“I saw some Coppin video from that NCAA tournament game, and his father was a stone-cold bucket-getter,” recalled Otzelberger. “It’s just unreasonable confidence, which I believe they both have.” His father seems to have it inherently, and Izaiah seemed to have picked it up this year.”
Brockington’s unreasonable confidence was on full display during a thrilling 84-81 come-from-behind win against West Virginia on Feb. 23 in Ames, Iowa. Brockington scored a career-high 35 points, including a go-ahead layup with 22.6 seconds left in the game after swiping an inbound pass.
Brockington described his conduct against West Virginia as “just one of those games when I got hot.” “It was one of those days where the rim seemed so large that I didn’t think I’d be able to miss.”
That was the mindset of Antoine Brockington, who defined himself as a “hired assassin” when he first entered the courtroom.
“You already knew I was shooting 15 to 20 shots a night and wasn’t playing any defense if I was on your team,” Antoine Brockington joked. “I taught him how to be a point guard while also teaching him to be selfless.” Don’t make the same mistake as me. ‘It’s time, you can go be like your father right now,’ I’d say when it was time to take over games.’
While accompanying his father to league and pickup games in the Philadelphia region, Brockington witnessed many of his father’s adventures.
“Watching him play and how he played sparked my interest in the game,” Brockington said. “I went wherever he went, whether it was a league game or he was coaching elsewhere.” Because he wore a headband, I was the child with a headband at his games.”
There are similarities between father and son offensively, from their solid midrange game to their outstanding elevation when hitting the rim.
Brockington, who is 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds — two inches taller and six pounds heavier than his father during his Coppin career — remarked, “I’m bigger than he was as a player.” “However, we’re the same in terms of being explosive and having that competitive drive on offense.”
That’s a form of offense. On the other hand, the gap between father and son is wider.
Dad spent defensive possessions thinking about what he was going to do on offense because his son is a good on-ball defender.
This season, son led the Cyclones in rebounding with 7.1 per game; dad’s career high at Coppin was 3.5 per game.
“My defense consisted of playing the passing lanes and hoping our bigs would get a block when guys got by,” Antoine Brockington said. “I taught him how to rebound because it’s something I’ve never done before.” Everyone can score, but being able to rebound would set him apart from other players at the position.”
Since his freshman year at St. Bonaventure, when he was a backup guard, Izaiah Brockington has wanted to separate himself from the pack. That team beat UCLA in the 2018 First Four NCAA tournament game as a No. 11 seed before losing to Florida in the next round.
Brockington had five double-digit scoring games in the first 15 games of the 2017-18 season, including a 20-point effort against TCU in the Emerald Coast Classic, for which he was nominated to the all-tournament team. However, by the conclusion of the season, his playing time had become inconsistent, prompting him to seek a transfer.
“He went from being named to the all-tournament team while playing versus Maryland to not playing at all,” Antoine Brockington explained. “That’s something we’ve never quite grasped.”
Brockington transferred to Penn State, where he started 24 of the 56 games he appeared in over two seasons, finishing as the team’s second-leading scorer with 12.6 points per game in 2020-21.
Brockington sought a new start due to a lack of coaching continuity (Penn State is on its third coach in three seasons). With numerous large programs vying for his services, the opportunity at Iowa State emerged as the greatest fit despite two wins the previous season.
“I didn’t let the past frighten me away from coming here because [Ames] has been a fantastic venue to perform in the years before,” Brockington said. “I wanted to make a difference and return this team to prominence in the conference and on a national level as a personal objective.”
There’s a difference between wanting to be the guy and working hard to be named the guy. Brockington’s desire to put out the effort required to earn his honors impressed the Iowa State coaching staff.
“When we initially met with Izaiah and he told me about the chance he wanted, I asked him, ‘How hard are you going to work for that?’ According to Otzelberger. “I recall him stating, ‘Every day, I’ll be the hardest-working guy.’ And he’s grateful for it. He’s stepped up every day in practice, not just in games, to be that man for us.”
Brockington now has the chance to repeat his father’s success in the NCAA tournament, which he did in 1997.
“We’re all really proud of him,” Antoine Brockington said as he sat behind the Iowa State bench with his ex-wife, Jennifer St. Jean, and her husband, Noisette St. Jean, for the Big 12 tournament’s first game in Kansas City, Missouri. “For all the work he’s put in, it’s been a long path of no respect for him, and I’m just thrilled that he’s now getting noticed.”
Jerry Bembry is an Andscape senior writer. Being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June are both on his bucket list.