‘Why stop now?’ Clear Brook girls enjoying drastic turnaround
On the bottom line of his email signature, Clear Brook girls basketball coach Warren Brooks has the motto, “On a Quest for the Best!”
Brooks certainly has the Wolverines on their way.
After an 8-13 overall record last year, 4-8 in district, Clear Brook has undergone one of the more dramatic turnarounds in Houston hoops this year, standing 30-4 and winning an undefeated District 24-6A championship.
The Wolverines are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and district champs for the first time since 2005. Clear Brook plays Hastings in the bi-district round Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Hightower High School.
“I knew there was talent on this campus to be successful,” said Brooks, in his second year at the helm of Clear Brook. “So, we had to get their mindset shifted towards believing that they are winners and believing in themselves. Having a sense of pride in being a part of the program. Things of that nature. The girls bought in, and it’s kind of just who we are at this point.”
The Wolverines were young last year with only three seniors. Now those juniors are seniors, like leading scorer Alyssa Berry (14.7 points per game). Those sophomores are juniors.
That year of experience has been crucial.
But what’s also been a boon has been the play of three freshmen, especially point guard Rezia Castillo. Castillo was voted as a team captain, along with senior Tamia Moody, because of her leadership ability.
She has not disappointed.
Castillo is averaging 11.8 points with 3.3 steals per game and leads the team in rebounds (5.6 per game) and assists (5.1) per game.
Castillo boasts that aforementioned pride Brooks desires.
“I love Brook,” Castillo said. “I’ve loved Brook since I was little, and my older sister went here. I knew all along I wanted to play at Brook.”
Castillo was asked if she knew about the program’s struggles before stepping onto campus.
“Yeah, I knew about it, but I’ve always had the underdog mindset anyway, so none of that even mattered,” she said.
Castillo, precocious shooter Chardel Terrell (also the team's second-leading scorer), and defensive specialist Kamryn McLaurin have provided an impressive rookie class for Brooks.
“The impact they’ve had on the season has been the biggest surprise for us,” Brooks said.
Entering this season, Brooks figured he’d have a team capable of some semblance of success. He felt the playoffs were attainable.
“But as far as going 12-0 in district and winning 30 games? I’m not going to sit here and lie and say that was something I pictured happening at first,” he said. “But as we started rolling and having conversations with our players throughout the season, they started creating new goals and then we felt it was something we could accomplish.”
Castillo said she knew as early as fall ball that the Wolverines had a chance to be special.
“We’d work out and practice together,” she said. “In games, I could tell we were for real about this. Seeing how we’d work with each other, and you could tell everybody cared. Nobody was there just to be there.”
Clear Brook's girls basketball team went 30-4 during the regular season, winning an undefeated District 24-6A title.Courtesy of Clear Brook girls basketball social media
Brooks added varsity assistant coach Mileka Loydrake this season. Loydrake played collegiately at the University of Houston and St. Edward’s University. She has introduced a different dynamic to coaching and installing the Wolverines’ defense. Players are adept at helping and rotating quickly and smartly.
The Wolverines give up just 41.7 points per game. Clear Brook likes to play fast and speed opponents up with its defensive pressure, letting the offense feed off turnovers and quick misses from opponents.
Brooks appreciates the players’ buy-in. Players appreciate the time and effort Brooks puts in, a testament that their coach cares.
The result has been a lot of winning for a program unaccustomed to it. Clear Brook has won 18 straight games and has not lost since Dec. 4.
“It’s been fun,” Brooks said. “We always talk about the road’s not over. Just because we have a level of success, even in life, it doesn’t stop there. You’ve got to keep battling to stay on top. Our message to the girls the last few weeks is stay hungry. Why stop now?”