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Keion Brooks on what excites him most about Wildcats and his recovery from injury

Brooks still isn’t 100% as the season is set to begin soon, but he’s very excited about what this team can accomplish.

Devin Askew. Keion Brooks Jr. Davion Mintz. Dontaie Allen. Terrence Clarke. UK Athletics

Today, Kentucky Wildcats sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. met with the media to preview the upcoming season, which begins next Wednesday vs. Morehead State.

Despite taking part in Kentucky’s recent Pro Day, Brooks admitted that he’s still not 100% as he recovers from a calf injury.

“I feel great. It’s just a matter of when the doctors are 100% comfortable with me getting back out there competing at full speed,” Brooks said. “I’m still doing my individual workouts. I’m still a part of practice. I just need to take a little step back when it’s time to go five-on-five.”

Brooks did admit one good thing to come of the injury was it allowed him to sit back on the sideline and watch his new teammates in action. Though many of them are freshmen, Brooks says this team is very smart and loves being coached.

“I think that we have a very smart team that is willing to be coached. Me having to take a step back a little bit and just observe on the sideline when we go five-on-five, everybody is receptive to coaching and I feel like that’s the best thing that you need as a team,” he said.

Here is a recap of what Brooks had to say via UK Athletics.

On his health …

“I’m taking it day-by-day still. I feel great. It’s just a matter of when the doctors are 100% comfortable with me getting back out there competing at full speed. I’m still doing my individual workouts. I’m still a part of practice. I just need to take a little step back when it’s time to go five-on-five.”

On if it has been frustrating to not be able to play with the work that he’s put in …

“Nah, not at all. I’m a believer that everything kind of happens for a reason. I believe that God has a plan for me and I’m just not ready right now, but I know that I will be ready in the near future. So, that doesn’t really frustrate me. I’ve looked at it as a blessing. I’ve taken a step back and been able to really analyze what’s going on out there on the floor.”

On the point guard competition between Davion Mintz and Devin Askew

“To me, it looks like whichever point guard Cal goes with, they can both get the job done. They’re different in some respects, but some others they’re similar. At the same time, they’re both really capable of getting the job done. They’re both good shot makers. They get our team involved in every situation on offense. So, like I said before whichever way (Calipari may go), I mean, they’re both going to play so it really doesn’t matter who is out there on the floor because I believe in both of them.”

On what has him the most excited about this year’s team …

“I think that we have a very smart team that is willing to be coached. Me having to take a step back a little bit and just observe on the sideline when we go five-on-five, everybody is receptive to coaching and I feel like that’s the best thing that you need as a team. As a basketball player, be willing to be coached and listen to our coaching staff because they have a lot of knowledge to give us. So, that’s what I’m really excited about with this team.”

On what makes the team dangerous on the court …

“Really our length and athleticism. I think we have like nine guys who are 6-6 or above. So, it’s tough to get down there and make shots in the paint. And also, to be able to run the floor with our speed. We should make it really hard on teams offensively and defensively because of our size.”

On the team’s eagerness to play an actual game in a week …

“We’re very eager to finally go against somebody besides ourselves. It can get tough at times playing against ourselves all of the time. Things can get really difficult because obviously we know what plays we’re running when we’re playing against one another. We know where the ball needs to get to, so that’s a struggle to really make baskets. It’s tough at times, but we’re just excited to finally come together as a collective unit and go out and play against somebody besides ourselves.”

On having a full schedule set with all the COVID-19 uncertainty …

“I mean, me playing for Coach Cal for about two years now, I wouldn’t expect anything different as far as him going out and getting games for us to make sure that we’re prepared throughout conference play and when we finally make our run in March. Cal is a good believer in these early games testing us, seeing how good we really are to start the season. It’s going to be difficult, you know, having 10 new players. But, that’s the test that we’re looking for to see how good we really are.”

On what info he has shared with the new guys and how he would describe his leadership going forward …

“Like I said before, I just want to make sure the new guys are comfortable and feeling good mentally. I can’t really help them with their bodies. I’m not a trainer. But just making sure their minds are good because sometimes it can be difficult. Playing for Cal isn’t easy and at times it feels like he’s just picking on you or trying to make it hard on you, but he’s doing it on purpose because he sees better in you. He knows you can be really good so he pushes you toward that. And just as far as being a leader, it’s something I embrace. This team is easy to be a leader. They’re smart. They listen. I don’t have to go too much out of my way to force my leadership upon them. Whenever they’ve got questions I’m here for them, and if I see some stuff, I try to pull them to the side and let them know how things go – what you should do, where you should be at, where your position should be at on the floor. But besides that, we’ve got a team full of smart guys that are receptive to any help that you can give them.”

On if there was a moment when he got on campus this summer when he realized basically everyone was gone from last season other than him …

“I mean, I still get that feeling every day. It’s just a different team, a whole different dynamic. I can’t pinpoint one moment when I really noticed it. It’s just, like I said, a different team, a different group of personalities. It takes some adjusting to getting used to. I was just accustomed to seeing Ashton (Hagans), seeing Tyrese (Maxey), Johnny (Juzang), all those guys every day. But you know, that’s kind of what you signed up for when you came to Kentucky. People aren’t going to be here long. I mean, it was a little weird being the only one coming back that’s played for him, but it’s something I embrace and something I look forward to helping my teammates get acclimated to how we do things.”

On if there is any anxiousness being injured of guys passing over him for playing time …

“I have no worries about being passed up by anybody. Not to say I don’t wish my teammates well and everything, but I’m confident in my ability, confident in the work that I’ve put in, that when I do come back I’ll be ready to go. So, that’s the least of my worries.”

On if he will tune into the NBA Draft and what will be going through is mind as he sees some of his teammates go through the biggest night of their lives …

“I’m just extremely happy to see them finally reach their dreams and to kind of make it, so to speak. Obviously, the work isn’t done. You’ve gotta go in there and compete and play hard, but I feel like getting drafted is a moment where you can sit back for a little bit and be like, OK, I’ve reached my dreams. All the hard work, you can look back and reflect. So, I’m just happy for them to have that moment. I’m obviously going to be tuned in cheering my teammates on.”

On if he’s talked to any of his former teammates who are hoping to get drafted …

“Me and Tyrese are extremely close. We talk almost every day. Like the day they released the lottery, he probably called me five minutes after. We talked about where he could possibly go. And then also with the rest of my teammates, we still have a group chat that we communicate in every day. We’ve been talking about the draft and just a lot of the stuff we went through last year and missing all the funny moments and stuff like that. So, I do I keep in contact with all my teammates from last year.”

On how tough it was to have the plug pulled last season when he was hitting his stride and now having the injury and if it’s difficult to get that momentum back …

“No, because I’m still hungry to be better, still hungry to be great. That last game we played, it was good for my confidence. It was good for our team as a whole to be clicking on all cylinders. Had some guys step up while Ashton wasn’t there. As far as me not feeling like I’ve got momentum or can I come back and be as productive, I don’t feel that way at all. Like I said, I’m still working out. I feel like if you saw me working out, (you would see) that I looked pretty good as far as my health, as far as being able to run around and jump around. It’s just the contact of it all, I haven’t done that yet. But I still feel good about what I’m doing.”