By LARRY VAUGHT
After Keion Brooks Jr. scored 10 points, pulled off seven rebounds and played well in the closing minutes of Saturday’s win at Arkansas, Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said the freshman passed a major test.
Brooks admitted Monday that it did help his confidence but also did one more important thing by getting his teammates “to believe in me to get things done” because of what he did against Arkansas.
“My teammates and coaching staff, their faith in me has never waned or faltered throughout this whole process, even when I was struggling,” Brookds said. “Just, for them to keep believing in me, and I finally have a good game out of it, it feels good.”
Brooks knew he had an opportunity to prove what he could do against Arkansas after coach John Calipari got ejected and UK was in danger of losing a road game after having a double-digit lead for the second time in four days.
“I just knew I was in a position where the team was going to have to rely on me to do some things, rebound the ball, score inside, get some stops and play great defense, so I just tried to step up to the challenge and I was able to do that and we came out with a W,” he said.
Sounds easy but it was a big step because UK has had four players — Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards — playing consistently well but is looking for another player to do the same thing.
“I’ve just been relying on my training, my work ethic, the faith I have in God to push me through everything I’m going through,” Brooks said.
“It’s not always easy, but I know I’m going to push through it and fight through it. So, the game has been coming a little bit easier to me. I’ve just got to keep getting better and keep progressing.”
Brooks is just glad Kentucky will be playing at home tonight against Georgia, a team it beat two weeks ago, after two games on the road last week and another one Saturday at Texas Tech, a top 20 team.
“It will feel real good because the last one was a very hostile environment. But it was fun also to play on the road, get away and just rely on each other the whole time,” Brooks said. “But it should be fun to get back into Rupp and get stuff done.”