By LARRY VAUGHT
For freshman Keion Brooks Jr. playing at Tennessee Saturday was fun.
“They had a great crowd, a great atmosphere. I love playing on the road, going into different and tough environments just to see what we’re made of and I always enjoy playing on the road. They had a great crowd,” Brooks said Monday.
Tonight he’ll get his first chance to play at Vanderbilt, the only arena with team benches at the end of the court rather than on the sideline.
Brooks had four points and nine rebounds in the win at Tennessee and was in the game the final five minutes to help close out the win.
“I just wanted to go in and do what was asked of me and defend, rebound and then just make plays I know I can make,” the freshman said. “It was kind of a tough situation with so much foul trouble, so I knew I was going to have be relied on a little more.
“I just went out there and did anything I could to help us win. Rebounding was part of it and also defending. I really feel like I’m starting to come into my own and I’m enjoying it.”
That could be huge for UK because it seems it’s about time to accept that sophomore EJ Montgomery is not the answer at power forward for Kentucky. He can be productive at times but his consistency just has not been there. Maybe if he would stay at UK another year it will come as a junior like it has for Nick Richards, but to expect a miraculous surge from him this year seems a bit much.
Brooks plays with energy and effort. He might not make the right play but his energy always seems good and he attacks the glass. If given a chance for extended minutes tonight, he knows to be ready even though Vandy has won just one SEC game in two years — a win last week over SEC co-leader LSU in Nashville.
“We play in a very tough league and any night you can be beaten. We can’t try to look past Vandy. They’re playing really well right now, just beat LSU. We gotta come in with a focus and a mindset to attack and be aggressive and we should do fine,” Brooks said.
“We just gotta come in with an attack mindset, continue to be the aggressor and not let them get confidence early throughout the game so now they think they can beat us. We gotta just come out and stay aggressive throughout the whole game and we should be fine.”
On Keion Brooks Jr. grabbing a career-high nine rebounds against Tennessee …
“He was active. Keion is an active, live body that doesn’t quit the first time he’s hit. He had a little period of time where he was playing well and then got a little bit sick. I think we talked about that. Now he’s back feeling 100%. He is practicing really well. He is an active, live body, like I said, that brings tremendous energy. Once again, every time he plays, every minute, just gains experience. That is really just what we need for everybody, but for guys like Johnny and guys like Keion, it’s big for us moving forward.”