Brooks stepping in at PG helps UALR

Moving to the point guard position was an adjustment for UALR guard Jayla Brooks. She said she has leaned on her past experience playing point guard in both high school and junior college. 
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Moving to the point guard position was an adjustment for UALR guard Jayla Brooks. She said she has leaned on her past experience playing point guard in both high school and junior college. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Arkansas-Little Rock starting point guard Jaiyah Harris-Smith missed four games recently while battling a knee injury. Being the only true point guard on the roster, the Trojans have had to shuffle their lineup to compensate for the loss.

Jayla Brooks shifted over to the point from her natural shooting guard position out of necessity. It's been an adjustment for Brooks, but she is willing to do whatever is needed as one of the Trojans' leaders.

"It's been a little rough just getting back into the groove of it," Brooks said. "Playing point guard, you don't only have to be a facilitator, but it is a key thing if you want the team to be successful. You have to be able to have a point guard that can facilitate, so I feel like that has been my adjustment right now."

Brooks is averaging 9.9 points per game for UALR and has scored in double figures in 11 games. While the move to point guard was an adjustment, Brooks said she has leaned on her past experience playing point guard in both high school and junior college.

Before transferring to UALR, Brooks spent her first college season at SMU, before transferring to Panola College in Carthage, Texas. At Panola, she played both guard positions and averaged 9.1 points per game while making 23 starts.

Trojans guard Tia Havey was teammates with Brooks at Sachse High School just outside of Dallas. They went their separate ways before reuniting in Little Rock last season.

"Jayla has always been my point guard," Harvey said after a recent game. "I think she is getting re-acclimated to that position. She hasn't had to do that in awhile. Us not having Jaiyah right now, with her being our point guard, it's kind of a big adjustment but we are getting used to it."

Before taking over for Harris-Smith, Brooks had established herself as one of the top scorers on the team, especially from three-point range where the Trojans have struggled all season. UALR shoots 28.6% from behind the arc as a team, but Brooks is shooting a team-high 38% on three-point attempts.

Her scoring numbers have dropped off since switching positions, but Brooks appeared to turn the corner in the Trojans' 55-48 victory at Eastern Illinois on Feb 2. Brooks scored 18 points and shot 4 of 10 from three-point range to help lead UALR to the win. It was her strongest game since taking over the primary ball-handling duties.

"Playing the two-guard, I was kind of getting used to scoring a little more," Brooks said. "Switching back to point, I got to be able to get other people shots as well trying to still find my own. We all should be able to get shots, it's just kind of getting adjusted back to it and getting back in the groove of things."

"She has got to get used to it as we've been using her scoring a little bit more," UALR Coach Joe Foley said on moving Brooks to point guard. "She's been shooting the three well so I hate to do that, but right now she's the best ball-handler we got. If you don't have somebody that can get the ball down the floor, you ain't going to get to shoot it anyway."

While UALR's offense has been choppy at times with Harris-Smith out of the lineup, the Trojans were still able to stay on the winning track, earning victories in three of the four games that Harris-Smith was sidelined.

Harris-Smith returned to the court earlier this week, coming off the bench against Tennessee-Martin and Western Illinois as she eases her way back into the lineup. Her return to the starting lineup figures to allow Brooks to return to the shooting guard position.

But Brooks said she is happy with whatever role she is asked to play as long as it gives the team the best chance to win.

"We've shown the ability [to score points] a few times this year. We just need to be more consistent with it," she said. "I'm just trying to step up and lead by example. Just trying to show what we need to do and then hopefully everyone else can follow suit and learn along the way. I'm just trying to fill in the pieces wherever I can."

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