Keion Brooks Jr. is the rarest commodity in faculty basketball: a affected person five-star. A level-headed former blue-chip recruit with the understanding that top-25 recruiting standing is all however a promise to play important minutes at Kentucky; that Brad Calipari’s chest is a mantra to stay by as a hooper in Lexington: “Earned Not Given.”
As a freshman, Brooks was quiet on and off the courtroom; a slim presence on a Kentucky crew un-typically dominated by lovable upperclassmen. The Hagans-Quickley-Maxey-Richards foursome grew into Kentucky’s most (and solely?) productive unit, leaving Brooks in an influence ahead carousel with veteran sniper Nate Sestina and a 6-10 second-year massive EJ Montgomery.
Sestina graduated, Montgomery opted to not “waste” his overwhelming expertise on a stage of basketball so beneath him, and fellow freshman wings Kahlil Whitney and Johnny Juzang had been every vanquished by their very own this-didn’t-go-my-way strategy to Kentucky.
Not Brooks, he remained a ‘Cat, and he’ll be an ideal piece for 2021, enjoying an ideal position on a squad spectacular sufficient to be ranked solely twelve spots behind Richmond on Jeff Goodman’s Approach Too Early rankings (a crew within the A-10 with a worse 2020 file than Kentucky and nil NCAAT appearances because the Romney/Obama election).
Whereas we the BBN complain fairly a bit (and sometimes rightfully) about our basketball roster rotating out and in like Michael Scott replacements, the previous two seasons had been dominated by upperclass stars resembling P.J. Washington, Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans. The subsequent will likely be Keion Brooks. And in his personal approach.
The consensus hope across the state appears to be that Brooks will flip in a P.J. Washington sort in his second season with an analogous spike in manufacturing. Pump the brakes on that one, of us. It’s forgotten how dominant Washington grew to become at occasions late in his freshman yr. In that depressing 2018 Candy Sixteen loss to the Xavier Sneed warmth verify, Washington was Kentucky’s solely hope, notching 18 and 15 (shut up concerning the free throws) as Knox went lacking in all of the necessary moments and Shai was simply off (however nonetheless transformed 11/12 on the stripe).
Freshman P.J. averaged double figures, had proven clear go-to offensive strikes, after which added his ace of spades between years: that left block, one dribble, mini dream-shake and child hook. Washington was a scoring star the place I believe Keion Brooks will thrive primarily as a rebounder, defensive stopper, and multiphase catch-and-shoot risk. It’s potential he develops right into a PJ-like scorer however I don’t need to place that type of expectation when that isn’t his finest talent, a la Washington.
Weirdly, in a basketball world managed by stars, at Kentucky, I’d favor this model of Keion. Kentucky all the time has the star energy, however in addition they have the Illness of Extra: celeb highschool stars get to school and endlessly need extra photographs, extra minutes, extra alternative, extra acclaim. And you’ll’t blame them, they’ve older mentors and coaches and family of their ear hungrier for the highlight than they’re for participant X’s real basketball improvement. Once more, you’ll be able to’t completely blame them when future non-guaranteed cash is the crux of the difficulty.
However the Brooks celebration has been completely different. His father offers glowing opinions of the teaching employees even when his child is struggling to see the ground. In response to a fantastic and premium model of what I’m writing, Kyle Tucker obtained this quote out of Keion Brooks Sr.: “Cal instructed [Keion] he was simply happy with him for preventing and never giving up, not being discouraged and never working away, however coming in to get higher day by day.”
These are the emotions reflective of a hardworking team-first chief. These youngsters are batting 1.000 at Kentucky.
Final season, Kentucky lacked dependable position gamers: secondary scorers who scrap for further possessions, bodily forwards to manage the paint, three-point gunners, and so on. Up to now, guys like Darius Miller, Doron Lamb, DeAndre Liggins, Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and Reid Travis stuffed these holes. The perfect groups below Cal embrace them.
We will act prefer it’s loopy to say you’ll be able to’t win with a bunch of freshman stars, however the actuality is that you simply want position guys prepared to sacrifice their very own stats and minutes for the betterment of the crew, and often, it takes a yr or two for that mentality to develop. Maybe Kentucky would’ve been a one-seed, top-five sort of crew this yr had that been Kahlil Whitney’s strategy (and he oozed athletic expertise too, what a rattling disgrace). It wasn’t. And it was most likely the distinction between 25-6 and a one-seed en path to the Closing 4, not that it mattered.
Brooks has the selfless mentality and now he has a season of maturity to go together with his considerable athletic presents and sure large offseason bulk-up. He’ll return to campus larger, smarter, stronger, and ready to bang with any ahead within the nation.
I foresee manufacturing extra alongside the traces of a Reid Travis for sophomore Brooks. He’s bouncier and slimmer than Reid, however the rebounding, submit scoring, and team-oriented decision-making are all traits Brooks flashed as a freshman.
Above all else, Travis was reliable. I all the time felt comfy with him on the ground, which isn’t true 100% of the time for many guys. He didn’t sulk after missed photographs or Cal tantrums, he didn’t jack contested jumpers with 18 seconds left on the shot clock, he by no means tried greater than he was able to. Reid Travis maximized his potential in a Kentucky uniform.
Keion Brooks ought to be that regular presence. The one 20-year-old whose judgment I don’t have to fret about, whose effort and dedication to enhancing and serving to the crew is fixed–and contagious. Keion is a mature child; quiet, however very considerate about basketball and anxious with turning into the most effective model of himself and the most effective model of a Kentucky teammate. He’ll be one of many high “glue guys” within the nation subsequent yr; the engine, like an Ashton Hagans–the nonstop motor who maintains crew power. And he’ll be a draft choose due to it.
Keion Brooks Jr. made it by means of a freshman yr of 4 factors per recreation and no acclaim…and goes to make it out clear on the opposite facet, a self-conscious sophomore bodily beast with supreme versatility and the pacesetter for a crew that can spank Richmond on its method to one other contending season for John Calipari.