Michael Brooks, former La Salle great, dies at 58

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La Salle's Michael Brooks scores against Duke's Mike Gminski in a January 1978 game.

Michael Brooks, 58, a Philadelphia high school and college star who years after his playing career ended remained one of the most admired and mysterious figures in the city's basketball history, died Monday.

Brooks, who scored 2,628 points during his standout career at La Salle University (then La Salle College) after starring at West Catholic High School, suffered a massive stroke Monday during a hospital stay near his home in Switzerland, his sister Aleta Arthurs said in a phone interview.

(You can sign Brooks' guestbook.)

Brooks had aplastic anemia, a syndrome that attacks the bone marrow and immune system. It was diagnosed in 2011, and he had entered the hospital late last week for a bone-marrow transplant to treat his condition. His body rejected the transplant, his sister said, and he suffered a small stroke on Sunday that precipitated the more severe one he suffered Monday.

A 6-foot-7 forward with spectacular speed and leaping ability, Brooks was named the NCAA Kodak national player of the year for the 1979-80 season, when he averaged 24.1 points and 11.5 rebounds a game for the Explorers, and was named the captain of the 1980 United States Olympic men's basketball team. The team never competed in the Olympics because of President Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the Moscow Games in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

After playing six seasons in the NBA, Brooks moved to France in 1988 to play professionally and lived in Europe thereafter, working most recently as a coach with the Blonay Basketball Club in Switzerland. He had declined to stay in contact with his alma mater, many friends, and most members of the Philadelphia basketball community over that time.

He last spoke to his sister on Friday, when he asked her to call him back on Monday so he could wish her a happy 50th birthday. A funeral will be held in Switzerland, and Arthurs said that she and her family would attempt to arrange a memorial service at La Salle.

"To me, he was a light," Arthurs said. "I was always very protective of him, and I always will be. He will be missed in our family, very missed."

msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski