After months of a back-and-forth recruitment, 2019 five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr. ended up turning down the hometown Indiana Hoosiers and committing to John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Live from his old middle school, St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Brooks Jr. made the announcement in front of his closest friends and family members. And it’s a decision he says he’s extremely happy with.
Before we get into what this decision means for Kentucky, let’s first take a look at how this thing played out.
How did we get to this point?
Though his final list consisted of four teams, there is no debate that this decision came down to two schools: Kentucky and Indiana.
As mentioned in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes on Tuesday, Michigan State felt they were out of the running this past weekend, and North Carolina has been feeling that way for several weeks now. The Kentucky and Indiana coaching staffs, however, each felt fairly confident in their chances. UK felt John Calipari’s “Kentucky isn’t for everyone” pitch resonated well with Brooks, while Archie Miller took over the recruitment on Indiana’s side of things and felt his team’s “hometown hero” pitch would win out in the end.
To put it simply, if Indiana wasn’t struggling so badly this season and the Romeo Langford experiment worked out better, it absolutely would have worked. Brooks has wanted to play at Indiana for a long time, and that was going to be the choice. It’s not a secret.
With how well Kentucky has turned things around and developed this team for March, combined with Indiana likely missing the NCAA Tournament and their fanbase acting like the sky is falling, it was just the perfect storm for the Wildcats to come in and pull off the upset.
Before the big announcement, I wrote a quick post with some last-minute thoughts on Brooks, and I ended it with a note that I was feeling really confident about Kentucky’s chances this evening. You can check it out here:
Over the last three weeks or so (basically ever since Kentucky’s victory over Tennessee at Rupp Arena with Brooks Jr. in attendance), I had been hearing from multiple angles that the Cats maintained a slight lead over the hometown Hoosiers.
After some silence to start the week, I (finally) heard a fairly significant bit of information from a strong source that Kentucky was the choice. That being said, that didn’t come until early today, which leads me to believe a final decision wasn’t made until yesterday at some point. John Calipari flew up to Fort Wayne, IN on Tuesday and Archie Miller visited on Wednesday, and from what I know, Brooks left both meetings without a decision. From there, he sat down with his family one last time and felt that his basketball future was simply better off at Kentucky.
This evening, he made it official with a quick and easy announcement in favor of the Wildcats (seriously, it was like 30 seconds long).
Now, onto what it means for Kentucky going forward.
Kentucky got a star
Ranked anywhere from No. 17 overall (247 Sports) to No. 38 (ESPN), the 6-foot-8, 190-pound forward is one of the most versatile prospects in the class of 2019, making it no surprise that John “Mr. Positionless” Calipari was dying to get him in Lexington.
With the ability to grab a rebound, run the break, and finish on his own or distribute to one of his teammates, he’s proven throughout his high school career that he’s absolutely phenomenal in transition. He can knock down jumpers at a solid rate, but he’s going to make his money on the run.
In terms of player comparisons, I would say he’s a mix between Jarred Vanderbilt and Kevin Knox. He’s long, strong, active, maintains a high motor, and has a tremendous basketball IQ. If there are 37 better basketball players in the nation, you’ll have to tell me who they are. I won’t believe you, regardless.
Seriously, just watch his highlights and tell me this kid isn’t going to be a star:
The 2019 recruiting class is coming together
Kentucky has had commitments and/or signatures from five-star guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star forward Kahlil Whitney, and four-star forward Dontaie Allen.
Beyond those three, the Wildcats had yet to secure a commitment in the frontcourt before today, and the elite options were running dry. James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., and Isaiah Stewart, among others, all opted for other programs, leaving the Wildcats extremely limited to close things out.
With Brooks now on board, things just got a whole lot easier for the Kentucky coaching staff moving forward. He’s not a true power forward (he’s actually more of a three than a four), but he has the ability to thrive at either position.
Now, Kentucky will likely need to sign just one more big man prospect to close out their 2019 recruiting class.
The UK coaching staff must be selective moving forward
With Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery likely returning next season and Brooks now on board, there’s really only one more spot to fill in the Kentucky frontcourt.
Between 2019 five-star prospects Jaden McDaniels and Matthew Hurt, potential 2020 reclassification candidates in Isaiah Todd and N’Faly Dante, and any potential graduate transfers we don’t even know about right now, the Kentucky coaching staff will have to be careful with how they spend their time on the recruiting trail.
Spread the love too much, and it might not be enough to separate themselves from the other contenders. Put all their eggs in one basket, and there’s a risk of missing out on that prospect, where it might be too late to make up ground elsewhere.
Obviously it’s a great position to be in to need just one more piece instead of several to close out a recruiting class, but the point still remains.
Kentucky is going to play differently next season
Several months ago, I was told the Kentucky coaching staff was looking to go back to Calipari’s dribble drive offense and focus on playing at a consistently fast pace, and Brooks’ addition only confirms that.
As mentioned earlier, the newest Wildcat thrives in that style of play, giving Kentucky a lot to work with next season. They can go small with Brooks at the four,
Add a player like McDaniels or Hurt, and the Cats would have one of the most athletic and offensively-skilled teams Calipari has had at Kentucky. They’d be able to shoot from every position on the floor, dominate on fast breaks, toss alley-oops, block shots, and convert on steals.
If things close out how the staff is hoping, the idea of feeding the ball inside and letting the star frontcourt players go to work would be a thing of the past. This group would thrive on setting up easy inside shots and lobs, finding open shooters on the perimeter, and slashing to the basket.
Needless to say, Brooks’ addition was massive for Kentucky on multiple levels. No matter what happens with expected and toss-up NBA Draft decisions, the Cats now have a roster capable of making a run next season.
Add one more elite piece? Goodness gracious.