After everything Anton Brookshire's been through, his career fittingly ends with a state title
Anton Brookshire's eyes didn't move and they didn't blink. As he stood on the JQH Arena floor, all he could do was stare into the trophy he held in his arms.
Those around him celebrated — screaming in joy after Kickapoo had just won a state championship.
After everything he's been through — moving away from his ill mother at a young age and then seeing her pass in 2020 in the days before his high school basketball team's state semifinal appearance was taken away from him due to the pandemic — and he just stared into the trophy.
KICKAPOO WINS STATE
His eyes watered up. But that didn't keep him from taking his eyes off the ultimate prize.
"I knew my mom is super proud of me," Brookshire said. "At the end of the day, I knew she was up there smiling."
In a fitting ending, Brookshire saw his high school career come to a close as one of the area's greats and as a state champion. He led the Chiefs with 21 points in a 71-62 win over Liberty in the Class 6 state championship game on Saturday evening at JQH Arena.
Brookshire goes out as one of the best to come through the area and his coach would like it to be known that he exits as one of the state's all-time greats as well.
"With what he was able to do for his four years and the runs he was able to make as a point guard, you can look at the stats and the numbers," Kickapoo head coach Mitch McHenry began. "I don't think that begins to explain the character he is and his personality. I'm excited to watch him at the next level."
The next level will see Brookshire playing at the University of Missouri and he'll bring one of the area's great resumes with him.
In addition to being a champion, Brookshire ended his career with 1,874 points which are the most in the history of the storied program. He also finished as the city's top 3-point shooter.
What can't be quantified is the leadership, character and toughness he contributed to the team.
Brookshire's mother fought through lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease, for most of his life. He moved from Milwaukee to Springfield in sixth grade when he was having to be the man of the house.
Instead of folding, Brookshire worked on his jump shot. With his uncle, Robert Yanders, owning a gym, he had plenty of time to grind and turn into the basketball players in the area as just a freshman.
The Chiefs' hearts were broken in the state quarterfinals as a sophomore. They fell to eventual-state-champion Rock Bridge that featured three of the best players in the state — including two who now play at MSU.
He made it a mission to get back, but it didn't come easy.
Right before the Chiefs played in a district tournament game in March 2020, Brookshire's mom passed away. Brookshire said he knew his mom would've wanted him to play, so he didn't miss a day of school nor a practice.
Brookshire led his team back to the state quarterfinals where the Chiefs were again matched up with Rock Bridge. This time, Brookshire dropped 18 of his 25 points in the second half to advance to the state semifinals — all while playing with a heavy heart.
His time to become a champion didn't come his junior year. The Chiefs advanced to the semifinals, but it was taken away from them when the state semifinals were canceled due to COVID-19. It was back to the gym.
Reinforcements were on their way. Kickapoo added Missouri State signee Isaac Haney and fellow Mizzou signee Trevon Brazile to the roster over the summer and Brookshire was going to have to share some of the spotlight.
It didn't matter, though. Instead of ego stepping in, the Chiefs rolled through the regular season always looking like one of the state's best until it was confirmed with a win on the final day of the season.
"At the end of the day, we're winners if they take the last shot or I take the last shot," Brookshire said. "We had the main goal and it was winning. Let's do whatever it takes to win."
Brookshire eventually looked away from the trophy and a smile appeared across his face. A talented team needed to celebrate with its leader.
One of the area's greats' high school career has come to an end.
Not often do you get an ending that seems so perfect.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free "Bears Beat" newsletter on News-Leader.com. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.