Is Kentucky forward Keion Brooks Jr. ready to enter the starting lineup in just his second game back from injury? UK head coach John Calipari says it’s a strong possibility.
After sitting out of all contact practices since early October and missing the team’s first nine games of the season, Brooks returned to the floor with a vengeance in Gainesville, finishing with 12 points on 6-8 shooting to go with six rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal in Kentucky’s 76-58 victory at Florida.
It was a performance that left Calipari thinking it might be time to put him in with the starters when the Alabama Crimson Tide head to Rupp Arena Tuesday evening.
“Well, not positive yet. But when I look at it, you say, “You know what? I think you start him,”‘ Calipari said during his call-in radio show Monday evening. “You have Isaiah (Jackson), and that’s where Lance (Ware) and maybe Cam (Fletcher) have to move to the back a little bit. But again, he came off the bench and was pretty good.”
Whether he starts or not, the UK head coach has confidence in Brooks’ judgement when it comes to playing time, giving him the freedom to take himself out of games and return to the floor when he’s ready. After months of selfless actions during the recovery process, coaching the team and cheering them on from the sidelines, Calipari says he’s earned that right.
“I’ll tell you what I said to him in the game, “Sub yourself now, kid. When you’re out, you’re out, just tell me when you’re ready to go back in,”‘ Calipari said. “We’ll do that with guys unless you’re selfish and only worry about yourself, then I’ll sub you. But when you’re this kind of kid and doing what the team needs to you to do, you have the ability to sub yourself and get yourself back in games.”
We’ll find out shortly if Brooks will make his starting debut for the Wildcats.