Keion Brooks Jr. to return to Kentucky for sophomore season

UK men’s basketball forward appeared in all 31 games with six starts as a freshman

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – 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.

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“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.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com