By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Keion Brooks is used to receiving constructive criticism from his father and that’s why he’s not taking John Calipari’s rants personally.
“If he’s not yelling at me like that, he probably doesn’t care about me so I appreciate him coaching me hard and staying on me at all times,” Brooks said. “I grew up with my dad coaching me so it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Although his father Keion Sr., who played at Wright State, has been known to voice is displeasure at times, Brooks gives his current coach the edge when it comes to making sure he stays on task at all times.
“I haven’t been yelled at like that in a long time,” Brooks said following the Wildcats’ 91-49 win over Eastern Kentucky last week. “(I’m going to) just to be aggressive, try to make the right play.”
One of the most versatile players on the roster, Brooks didn’t score in the season-opener against Michigan State, but rebounded and tallied 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Colonels in the team’s home opener. In the past two games, Brooks has scored 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. He played a season-high 20 minutes in the Wildcats’ 67-74 loss to Evansville earlier this week.
From his point of view, Calipari thinks Brooks has unlimited potential and said his freshman forward is “one of the greatest kids of all time.” The Kentucky coach also would like to see Brooks play within his own range.
“How about instead of shooting threes, shoot twos — like you can make them,” Calipari said. “You don’t have to shoot a three. Be who you are. We have no one like Keion. We don’t have a guy like that. He’s not like Tyrese (Maxey) and Tyrese is not like Immanuel (Quickley) and Immanuel is not like Ashton (Hagans), Kahlil (Whitney) is totally different, and we don’t have another seven-footer like Nick (Richards). E.J. (Montgomery) and Nate (Sestina), they’re all different. His game is two-point shots.”
During the team’s two exhibition games, Brooks admitted he “fell in love with threes a bit too much.”
“I’m a mid range player, that’s who I am, so I have to stick to who I am,” he said. “Once I get more comfortable, I’ll step behind the line.”
In addition to becoming more productive inside the arc, Calipari wants Brooks to become more consistent at the free-throw line. Brooks missed five free throw on six attempts against the Colonels. He didn’t attempt a shot from the charity stripe against Evansville, but has been working to improve his free-throw shooting.
“I’m going to make sure I take extra time before and after practice to work on my free throws,” he said.
In three games, three different players — Maxey, Richards and Quickley — have led the team in scoring and six players finished in double figures in the win over Eastern. Brooks said the balanced scoring isn’t a surprise.
“We’re just a very versatile team,” he said. “We put people in different positions and they can do a lot of different things for you.”
Despite the disappointing loss to the Purple Aces, Brooks expects the team to grow closer as the season progresses.
“We’ve grown very close over the time we’ve spent together,” he said. “I feel like the closer we are, the better we are. We’re trying to keep it tight and close as a group.”
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Gametracker: Utah Valley State at Kentucky, Monday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: ESPN2, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.