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Keion Brooks Jr. continues to show “fight” and more that John Calipari likes

Keion Brooks Jr. got on the floor to battle for loose balls Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

He was not Kentucky’s leading scorer. He didn’t play the most minutes or even grab the most rebounds.

However, freshman Keion Brooks Jr. continues to show that by March — if not sooner — that he could turn into the X factor for Kentucky this season.

Coming off a 15-point, five-rebound outing against Fairleigh Dickinson, he responded with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot in Saturday’s 67-53 victory over Georgia Tech.

What I like is that Brooks is the “fighter” that Kentucky coach John Calipari likes. He just has a knack for making plays that don’t show on a stat sheet.

— In the first half he had a nice drive and finished with his left hand. Rather than celebrate, he busted his butt to get back on defense and came out of nowhere to block a Georgia Tech shot.

— Late in the game he was surrounded by defenders with the shot clock running down. Rather than panicking, he kept his poise, found Immanuel Quickley open on the baseline and he hit a 5-footer.

— With Georgia Tech trying to make a late rally, Brooks went on the floor to dig out a loose ball. He also drove into the lane, got fouled on his left-handed shot and made two free throws.

It’s the kind of effort and consistency UK needed, especially with EJ Montgomery following his 25-point outing in UK’s last game with an 0-fer. In 20 minutes, he was 0-for-4 from the field, did not shoot a free throw and had just three rebounds. He did have one assist but no blocks or steals and reverted to his early season blahs.

Compare Montgomery’s outing to freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who was 0-for-9 from the field. But he got to the foul line six times, and made them all. He also had seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in 38 minutes. His defense also remained solid.

“He was solid,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said about Brooks. “But they have a bunch of good players. All eight are high level and all eight will play in the NBA.”

Brooks certainly could be one of those players. Even Calipari knows that. But the word he liked best about Brooks again was “fight” and that’s one thing Brooks has done from game one.

“He is a skilled basketball player,” Calipari said. “I even saw him stay in front of people when everybody else was getting beat. I was proud of him.”

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  1. Cal thinks that Nick could be best big man in the country if he only would fight with consistency. Hey Cal….it ain’t gonna happen. Nick is in year 3, and you were talking about his lack of confidence earlier in the week. EJ getting 20 mins and 0 points isn’t going to cut it either. These 2 guys will continue to strive for Charmin Top 10 if they keep same mindset. I am not familiar with all the big men out there, but they are several that could our guys out in a heart beat. If Azubuike (Kansas) stayed out of foul trouble, he would score at will on our bigs. Please hurry back Nate.

    1. “Mr. Cardinal” found his way on to the wrong site again folks,LOL. Nick fought his butt off but picked up a couple cheap fouls that limited him somewhat, and Maxey was probably the difference in that game. Sometimes a player does other things that add a great deal to the final outcome. Maxey locked down the GT star all day. I believe it was you and little Catmandoo1000 (by the way, where is he? Oh I remember now) that said UK couldn’t win with a guard heavy team on the floor. Guess this game killed that theory. Go cheer on the Cards, or maybe you are on the Memphis bandwagon now, and Coach Penny, right? Oh yeah, before I forget, I guess UT ought to just go ahead and fire Barnes , right? There was better 3 point shooting from UK in this game, at critical times too.

  2. EJ does not appear to be able to maintain any consistency…Brooks deserves all of his minutes since he stays in attack mode and is far more rebound focused. Maxey’s defensive fight was outstanding in this game and he finds ways to contribute when his shot is off-great effort on his part. Hoping Allen can heal quickly since it now appears that Johnny J lacks confidence in his shot…doesn’t appear to be the shot maker we had hoped for.

    1. Hoping Maxey can find ways to walk and chew gum at same time. He should be good enough to play good offense and defense same game. You expect that out of 5* athletes. JJ said he is not worried about his offensive challenges, but I think many of us are. Whitley appears to more of a project than expected but hopefully will improve as season progresses. EJ has to be a big disappointment to the coaching staff and will probably continue to take 1 step forward and 2 back. I do wish that Cal hadn’t earlier proclaimed this was going to be one of his better 3 pt shooting teams. Opponents used to fear coming into Rupp but no longer the case.

  3. I thought Nick play his heart out. What more you what from a player that has made leap and bounds from last year. No such thing being perfect like some of our fan base wants

  4. When Ashton plays like last night we will be a tough out come tournament time. We crushed their zone all night long. As long as we continue to beat zones off the dribble and with a few well timed threes we will be fine. To the few negative Nellies relax and enjoy the ride for a change. The real season begins in March. I have seen a lot of hoops and everyone has flaws that can be exploited. So try to enjoy the process. Try being less critical of individual play and enjoy the team.

    To me being a UK Rah Rah is like being in a family. We all know the flaws of our brothers, sisters aunts and cousins but we gather together and love and nurture them anyway because that is what FAMILY means. I have 7 older siblings and we may disagree on a lot of things but you mess with one and you get crushed by the rest. It’s what real families do. And that’s why the Rah Rah’s get uptight sometimes. Because you don’t mess with our FAMILY!!! GO CATS RAH RAH RAH

    1. Hey TROLL,”Mr. Cardinal” Mike, did you read this? Don’t believe you are in the family, lol.

  5. Well stated UKFMLY, allowing the gradual unfolding of the process to take place is always interesting, however it can try one’s patience at time when expectations don’t match up with reality.

    1. Our expectation are probably different. I expect that by the end of the season we will be one of the best 8 teams in the country. So I don’t set early season expectation too high. The Mich St game was fools gold for a few players and now they see how hard it really is. I expect to scream at the t v and be disappointed if we don’t win it all. But it doesn’t bother me like it use to and not because I have lowered my expectations for Championships at UK but because I am Living my best Life no matter what they do. Patience like smiling every day and being positive is a choice. I chose to smile.

  6. These players are not robots. I didn’t see much quit in any of them really. GT came into Rupp ready to play

    This UK team just sort of shares the wealth, seems to me. EJ will be back, and UK will march on into the season getting better and better with each game and practice. Just happy for the win. I was worried in the first half, and part of the second. UK rallied and won it.

    Old “Dukie Bilas” missed the flagrant foul called against the GT defender on Maxey’s drive to the basket. Maxey got the dog crap knocked out of him. Clearly a fragrant. Maxey is a good player, a great defender in this game. Without his play, I don’t think UK wins, and he never hit a shot from the field. Hagans was the man, with Quickly not far behind. Another UK victory I will gladly take. This team will be a national contender as the season progresses. Don’t pay any attention to the TROLL.

    1. Lonely, insecure Pup can’t stop chirping. Playground must have been awfully tough on him.

      1. Lonely now ain’t it TROLL, lol? I got a Challenge for you. You interested? We’ll see how secure you really are in all your BS.

        1. Are you really homeless?

  7. Just got to say it, admire UKFMLY’s approach to life. When you add in compassion and humility and appreciation to the smile it sure makes life work a lot better. Now, lets hope we win the next two while improving our fight and finish-Go Cats!

    1. Thanks Hope. It’s a process. LOL. Back to UK, both of the teams people are worrying about have issues. OSU lost to a 4-5 Minnesota and little bro pg play was duddy in their 2 toughest games. I like our chances. Go Cats

      1. Or should it be doody. Heck no matter how you spell it it was crap. LOL

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