By ERIC LINDSEY, UK Athletics
LEXINGTON – Keion Brooks Jr. is running it back.
After exploring his professional options, the Kentucky men’s basketball freshman forward has decided to return to the Kentucky men’s basketball team for his sophomore season.
“Keion improved as much as anyone on our team,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “This season was great for him. He learned about himself, he learned about the game and he learned about what it takes to be special. And let me say this: I truly believe Keion Brooks is going to be special.
“Keion is one of the greatest kids we’ve had. He’s got a caring heart, but on that court he has a competitive spirit with skills, length and athleticism that set him apart. He can play multiple positions on offense and defense because of that length and athleticism.
“I’m so excited to get another year to watch his growth and to be with him throughout the season.”
With several decisions still to be made for Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster, Brooks’ return will definitely bolster what should be another talent-rich squad in 2020-21.
Brooks appeared in all 31 games for the 2020 Southeastern Conference champions and made six starts. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game in his freshman season. The 6-foot-7 forward shot 47.2% from the floor.
Brooks scored in double figures five times in 2019-20, including a promising end to the season. The Indiana native played an important part in the 18-point comeback at Florida with 10 points and two 3-pointers.
Showing confidence as Brooks blossomed before everyone’s eyes at Florida, Calipari put the ball in Brooks’ hands on the game’s most important possession. With less than a minute to go and Kentucky having trailed the entire game, Brooks drove from the baseline and missed the pull-up jumper, but he drew the defense and allowed sophomore forward EJ Montgomery to crash from the weakside and tip the shot in for the game-winning basket.
Other key performances from Brooks included a 10-point, seven-rebound game in the comeback at Arkansas in which he hit key free throws late in the game.
Brooks scored a career-high 15 points vs. Fairleigh Dickinson and nearly notched a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds vs. Eastern Kentucky.
Coming out of high school, Brooks was ranked the No. 24 overall player by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. He played for the highly regarded La Lumiere School and played in the Geico High School national championship game. He earned USA Today All-USA Boys Basketball honorable mention.
UK’s roster will undoubtedly have a different look next season. Sophomore guard Ashton Hagans and freshman guard Tyrese Maxey announced earlier this week they are forgoing their remaining collegiate eligibility and entering the 2020 NBA Draft. Graduate student Nate Sestina has exhausted his eligibility and freshman guard Johnny Juzang entered his name in the transfer portal.
With other decisions still to be determined, Kentucky will welcome in what is widely regarded as the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. Headlined by top-10 players BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke, six of the seven-man class are consensus five- or four-star prospects.