LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Keion Brooks didn’t pay much attention to the speculation surrounding his future once Kentucky’s season came to a close earlier year.
“I was just focusing on getting better,” Brooks said at a satellite camp in Elizabethtown last week. ‘That was on the forefront of my mind. 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 that I’m coming back to school, but I guess that’s what people look for.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Brooks struggled gain his footing last season and hasn’t forgotten about the hard times that fell on the team amid a global pandemic.
“I can’t be ignorant of what happened last year, especially if I am going to try to weed out some of the things that weren’t successful for us last year,” he said. “… just don’t put yourself above the team. Don’t be above spending time with your teammates.”
Brooks also is looking forward to a return to normalcy next season and hopes Rupp Arena will return to full capacity.
“I am extremely excited to get back out there before all of our fans,” Brooks said. “I’ve been telling my (new) teammates how loud it is, but you can’t really know until you experience it yourself.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari attended the Philadelphia 76ers-Atlanta Hawks NBA playoff game on Sunday night and, like Brooks, Calipari is looking forward to a full capacity next season.
“To just be in an arena that was packed gets me excited about this year at Rupp,” he said. “It also reminds me of what our kids missed out on last year - the Kentucky experience. This season can’t come fast enough for me.”
As for his own journey, Brooks followed the same route taken by Immanuel Quickley and PJ Washington, whom the Kentucky junior to-be said, “made it OK to come back.”
“My journey wasn’t to be one and done,” he said. “It’s taken a couple of years and I’m just continuing trying to get better. If I keep doing that, hopefully I can reach my dreams.”
Not many former Kentucky players have stayed past two seasons during Calipari’s tenure at the school and Brooks will be just the eighth player to compete for three seasons or more with the Wildcats. Join Hood, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and Nick Richards are the lone former scholarship players under Calipari who have played at least three seasons with the Wildcats.
In order to reach the next level, Brooks has also focused on taking his game to the next level.
“(I’ve) got to get better shooting the three, taking people off the dribble,” Brooks said. “The game is changing and I don’t want to get left behind so I have to change my game.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.