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UK sophomore Brooks embracing leadership role; averaged 4.5 points, 3.2 rebounds last season

By Tim Letcher
University of Kentucky

Keion Brooks finds himself in a unique position for the 2020-21 season. Brooks is the only returning player on the University of Kentucky basketball team who played significant minutes last season.

In the world of Kentucky basketball, that makes him a veteran, especially with all of the new faces on the team, ones that he’s still getting to know.

In the world of Kentucky basketball, that makes him a veteran, especially with all of the new faces on the team, ones that he’s still getting to know.

Keion Brooks

“It’s just a different team, a whole different dynamic,” Brooks said. “I can’t pinpoint one moment when I really noticed it. It’s just, like I said, a different team, a different group of personalities. It takes some adjusting to getting used to. I was just accustomed Keion Brooks Jr. to seeing Ashton (Hagans), seeing Tyrese (Maxey), Johnny (Juzang), all those guys every day. But you know, that’s kind of what you signed up for when you came to Kentucky. People aren’t going to be here long.”

Being a sophomore at Kentucky also makes him a leader, something that Brooks likes.

“As far as being a leader, it’s something I embrace,” Brooks said. “This team, it’s easy to be a leader. They’re smart. They listen. I don’t have to go too much out of my way to force my leadership upon them. Whenever they’ve got questions I’m here for them, and if I see some stuff, I try to pull them to the side and let them know how things go – what you should do, where you should be at, where your position should be at on the floor.”

Brooks saw action in all 31 games last season, earning six starts during his freshman campaign. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds and seemed to find his role with the team near the end of the season, only to see the plug pulled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brooks is using that abrupt end as motivation for this season.

“I’m still hungry to be better, still hungry to be great,” Brooks said. “That last game we played (he had 10 points in the win at Florida), it was good for my confidence. It was good for our team as a whole to be clicking on all cylinders.”

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The preseason has been tough for Brooks, who has been hampered by injury. However, he says his health is improving.

“I’m taking it day-by-day still. I feel great,” Brooks said. “It’s just a matter of when the doctors are 100 percent comfortable with me getting back out there competing at full speed. I’m still doing my individual workouts. I’m still a part of practice. I just need to take a little step back when it’s time to go five-on-five.”

And as for how he has dealt with being out of action, Brooks has made the most of his time.

“I’m a believer that everything kind of happens for a reason. I believe that God has a plan for me and I’m just not ready right now, but I know that I will be ready in the near future,” Brooks said. “So, that doesn’t really frustrate me. I’ve looked at it as a blessing. I’ve taken a step back and been able to really analyze what’s going on out there on the floor.”

The experience that Brooks has, combined with what he has learned while being out, should benefit his as he returns for his second season as a Cat.

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