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Keion Brooks can be an impact player next season

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If Brooks is back for Year 2, he should be in for a major spike in production.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Coming out of high school, Keion Brooks Jr. was a consensus top-40 recruit who played in the Jordan Brand Classic.

As a big-time recruit with as much skill and versatility as Brooks Jr. has and who committed to John Calipari, a coach known for getting the most out of his top freshman, early and immediate success was expected. That hasn’t been the case, though.

Brooks Jr. hasn’t been bad by any means. He may only be averaging just 4.3 points on 44.2% shooting and grabbed just 3.3 rebounds per game, but he’s provided a consistent energy boost in his role and has visibly improved little by little as the season has gone on.

That was evident Saturday when Brooks gave the Wildcats great minutes with Nick Richards in foul trouble in the first half. Brooks had two big dunks that helped power Kentucky’s 23-5 run to take the lead for good. It also came right after Brooks was tabbed a breakout player for next season.

In his weekly “Evans Seven” article, Corey Evans at Rivals named Brooks to his list of former five-star recruits poised to take a step forward next season.

“While he has been given chances to flourish lately, Brooks has not always displayed the shot-making ability and versatility that John Calipari was hoping to get from the Indiana native. The chances of Brooks repeating his poor shooting numbers are slim, and with more time in the gym and weight room a breakthrough could be in store for the former five-star prospect,” Evans said.

Brooks looked like he was starting to put it together after strong performances at Arkansas and against Georgia, but he’s failed to score more than four points in the 11 games since. The energy, potential, and skill set are all there at his disposal, but he’s just missing the production.

Brooks may elect to enter the NBA Draft without signing an agent in order to get feedback from the league and return to school to improve his stock, but the chances of him actually leaving as a one-and-done seem less and less likely after each game. The results just aren’t there in the sample size we’ve gotten from Brooks at the college level for an NBA team to spend a draft pick on him at this point. Another season at Kentucky might be exactly what he needs to become the best version of himself.

If Brooks needs any motivation, he doesn’t need to look any further than the success of PJ Washington during his sophomore season and the success his current teammate Immanuel Quickley is enjoying right now. If he were to return for his sophomore year, there’s no reason he couldn’t do the same.

Next year’s basketball team is going to be very talented based on its No. 1 recruiting class alone, but anyone who comes back from this year’s team will help make them even better. Keion Brooks Jr. can be a massive part of that. The frontcourt will be thin with the departure of Nate Sestina, the likely departure of Nick Richards, and the potential departure of EJ Montgomery. While Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware Jr. are intriguing prospects, Brooks’ ceiling is unique.

If he stays for another season, Brooks can take it to the next level as a draft prospect and help Kentucky be even better next year.