By LARRY VAUGHT
Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy remembers watching Keion Brooks Jr. play in high school and wondering if he was good enough to play at Kentucky, much less be a potential one and done player like other freshmen John Calipari has had.
“But he’s fine for a freshman. He’s going to do okay and has a good career ahead of him but he’s not there yet and is not a complete player yet,” DeCourcy said. “ There are three in the freshmen class nationally that are exceptional. One has checked out (James Wiseman of Memphis), one is hurt (Cole Anthony of North Carolina).
“Anthony Edwards of Georgia is the only one playing and the only no-brainer, lock top seven pick in the NBA draft. To expect everybody to be great is unreal.”
Brooks came up huge for Kentucky in a recent win at Arkansas. Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne told Brooks he was going to “grow up” at the end of the Arkansas game and that he wasn’t taking him out of the game no matter what. Payne said it was a test to see how Brooks could do and he passed even if he did falter a bit in the win at Texas Tech Saturday.
“He passed. I’m so proud of him because he’s had a hard road (this season). The pressure that he’s been under to perform is a lot. He stood up and he came through for us. Really big. Big day for him today,” Payne said after the Arkansas win.
DeCourcy also senses there is a “lot of pressure” on sophomore EJ Montgomery who has yet to consistently reach the level of play most expected from him this year.
“The idea he has got to be this and that and has to be that today or he is not in the draft in June can put a lot of pressure on any player, but especially a player at Kentucky,” DeCourcy said. “Sometimes that can be overwhelming for a young player, especially one who is not there yet — and he’s clearly not.
“He can do things at times that look like a work of art. But he needs to be physically and mentally tougher. He’s only halfway through his sophomore year and he missed games this year with an injury that set him back.
“I would like to see him play more and play better but there’s still time for him to do that. EJ has struggled with his rebounding. There’s been confusion on offense and times he’s looked lost on defense. The areas he has struggled in are just not understandable and he has to do better.”