By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman Keion Brooks Jr. is still adjusting to what Kentucky coach John Calipari expects from him and needs from him, especially with Nate Sestina out indefinitely with a broken wrist.
Brooks is averaging 18.2 minutes, 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 47.8 percent from the field going into Saturday afternoon’s game with Georgia Tech.
However, Brooks has quickly learned just how admired UK basketball players are and become role models for young fans across the state.
“It’s nothing I necessarily asked for, but I know that comes with it. I have to carry myself in a way — I know little kids and other people are looking at me, so I have to carry myself in a way that’s being a good citizen, being a good person and always doing things the right way,” Brooks said.
With Sestina out, Brooks admits there have been some “tough times” and that him and others may have to play more minutes until Sestina gets back. However, he had his best scoring game — 15 points against Fairleigh Dickinson — last week.
“We have got to play through some fatigue but Coach and everybody on this team have the belief that anybody who goes out there can make a positive impact on the game,” Brooks said.
The positive for him is that with Sestina out, he’s going to play more and get more opportunities to learn, grow and either succeed or fail.
“I’m not where I want to be. I always have the mentality that I got room to get better and there’s things I can learn and improve on throughout the game,” Brooks said. “The minutes that I have had, I feel like I have done a pretty decent job of trying to make an impact. I’m going to practice and keep going up and talking to Coach Cal to see what I can do to help our team get better.
“He wants me to play harder every possession. Coming from high school, I wasn’t required to have to fight and play hard each and every possession. It’s just been a learning curve for me, but I’m getting used to it.”