The offseason began earlier than normal for the Kentucky basketball team. Shortly after the SEC Tournament exit, fans looked ahead to next year, wondering who could potentially return to seek vengeance. Arguably the most important piece of the puzzle was sophomore Keion Brooks.
The Big Blue Nation waited to hear if the forward would return for a third season in Lexington. We waited… waited … heard nothing … waited some more … then kept waiting. Nothing.
After months and months of speculation, John Calipari finally confirmed on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend that Brooks would in fact be back for the 2021-22 basketball season.
“I was just focused on getting better. That’s all that was on the forefront of my mind,” Brooks told reporters Friday afternoon at a UK basketball camp in Elizabethtown.
“I don’t know where all the hoopla and speculation came from, probably because I didn’t come out and announce it. To me, it’s not really a big deal. I don’t see why I should have to announce I’m coming back to school, but I mean, I guess that’s what people look for now. My head was just down in the gym, in the weight room, working on my conditioning, trying to get back to being 100 percent.”
You mean to tell me that a college basketball player can finish one season, then just return to play in the next without making an announcement? No way. What is this, 1978?
“It’s a little weird. It’s kind of funny, but I know what I signed up for. I knew that was probably going to come with it, but like I said, I was just so focused and locked in on getting better and trying to change my game that it didn’t bother me too much. I didn’t notice it too much because I was so focused on what I need to do.”
What Brooks needs to do is get healthy and improve his game on the perimeter. He played his way into the best shape of his life last summer, then was sidelined by a mysterious injury for three months. It was a frustrating low point in his life. This offseason he’s dedicated himself to be the player he thought he was going to be a year ago, which includes developing his guard skills.
“Continue to build on my versatility, ability to guard multiple positions. I gotta get better at shooting the three, attacking people off the dribble, being more perimeter oriented. The game is changing. I don’t want to get left behind. I’ve got to change my game as the time’s come.”
The game is changing at all levels and at Kentucky, the one-and-done game has changed. Departures after one season were once the expectation. Brooks’ announcement, or lack there of, proves there are Wildcats that can turn multiple successful years in Lexington into a profitable professional career. There was never any peer pressure to bolt to the NBA as quickly as possible.
“Not at all, and that’s because of players like Immanuel (Quickley, P.J. (Washington), Nick (Richards). They made it okay to come back and they’ve had great success here,” Brooks said. “My journey wasn’t to be one and done. It took me a couple years. I’m just continuing to get better, keep doing that and hopefully I can reach my dream.”