For some people, you know exactly where you’re supposed to be and how to get there.
For others, it takes a little bit longer.
Penn State women’s basketball player Dominque Brooks is an example of the latter.
In 2012, Brooks, or “Domo” as her teammates affectionately call her, graduated from Thorton Fractional South Senior High School in Lansing, Ill., with dozens of basketball accolades. She was named to the Northwest Indiana Times Illinois Girls Preseason All-Area twice, an AAU Illinois X-citement player, and a participant in the U18 Team USA trials in 2012. She was the 95th overall basketball recruit in the country and the 11th-ranked post player by ESPN/HoopGurlz.
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With teams across the nation vying for the 6-foot-4 post player’s attention, she was able to narrow her choices to Mississippi State and Penn State. On National Signing Day, she chose Mississippi State.
But before she even enrolled at the Starkville campus, longtime Bulldogs coach Sharon Fanning retired after 17 years.
In that moment, everything changed for Brooks.
“The coach, she had resigned, and then it was other issues — if I wanted to stay, if I wanted to leave and if I liked it,” Brooks said of her feeling at the time. “So I just decided I was going to go to a junior college.”
She headed to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, a small junior college that had a very respectable women’s basketball program.
“I knew going there would help me develop as a person on and off the court,” Brooks said.
During her two years at Trinity Valley, she was able to help the team to a 72-1 record with two National Junior College Athletic Association titles. As a post player, she made 51.1 percent of her shots and was named to the Regional XIV Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.
The experience helped her prepare for the next level of basketball.
She got her chance when Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington called.
“When I got the phone call from Coach Washington saying that she wanted me to come back to Penn State, I already knew that was where I wanted to go,” Brooks said.
As a longtime Penn State fan, she was ecstatic at another opportunity to play for the Lady Lions.
Her parents also embraced this new opportunity, too.
“They knew that Penn State was the right spot I needed to be,” Brooks said. “They didn’t hesitate. They knew exactly saying, ‘Hey, Dominique this is where you need to go.’”
Washington likes what she sees from the junior.
“Domo is an extremely hard-working post,” Washington said. “She runs the floor hard and scores well in the paint. She attacks the boards with abandon and works to create opportunities for her teammates. Her energy is simply off the charts.”
The transition hasn’t been completely smooth as Brooks found playing for the three-time defending Big Ten champions more intense than Trinity Valley.
“You’ve got to go harder. Harder each and every day,” Brooks said. “Back in Trinity Valley, I had to go hard, but here they pound you to do it every day, every single day, no matter what.”
She admitted to at first being a little bit out of shape with a different training and weight-lifting regimen. She’s thankful she had the support of the team. The camaraderie within the team allowed her to communicate and find help. She shares a special bond with senior captain Tori Waldner, who she talks with daily and can always rely on for a quick answer.
Her roommate, junior Candice Agee, also has been there to lend a hand.
Agee says that the two have become friends and notes that Brooks is a great person. Brooks’ electric energy transfers onto the court with her defense.
“I’ve thought of calling her happy feet, because her defense, she just moves and bounces,” Agee said. “It’s great, I think she brings a lot of intensity, a lot of passion.”
Even with a difficult transition, it’s clear Brooks has improved since joining the team.
“There’s definitely been a change to the first day she’s gotten here to now,” assistant coach Itoro Coleman said. “She’s gotten better. Right now, she’s probably the most consistent post player in terms of getting better because there was a lot of things she needed to work on. She’s gotten stronger. She’s very coachable. She loves to learn and it’s just a joy coaching her.”
Brooks has seen limited time so far in the first two games of the season.
In Friday’s 71-64 win against Towson, Brooks played for a total of three minutes. In her short time, she was fouled when putting up a jump shot and was able to make both free throw attempts. Moments later, she fouled a Towson player when going up for a rebound before going back to the bench. She played two minutes in Sunday’s 54-53 loss against Albany.
As a new player, Brooks knows her time may be limited to short bursts.
“Even if I don’t get in the game, it’s more about supporting the team and what the team needs,” she said.
Brooks’ long road to Happy Valley detoured through Texas, but she now finds herself happy and is finally at peace knowing that the journey was worth every step.
“I’m glad I made my decision and I’m glad I went through the junior college route, it really helped lead me to Penn State,” she said.