UK Recruiting

Calipari wants recruit to be the next Kevin Knox. Local fans want him to stay home.

Keion Brooks, a small forward from Indiana, is one of the top basketball recruits in the 2019 class.
Keion Brooks, a small forward from Indiana, is one of the top basketball recruits in the 2019 class.

Keion Brooks was sitting courtside at the Nike league event in Indianapolis on Saturday morning, talking about his recruitment and the college decision he’ll be making before this time next year.

He was sitting in a gym a little more than 100 miles from his hometown of Fort Wayne and a little less than 100 miles from that basketball haven of Bloomington.

A five-star recruit growing up in these parts these days hears the same thing that five-star recruits who have grown up in these parts have been hearing for decades. Brooks hears it over and over.

“People give me a lot of pressure,” he said. “I can’t go anywhere without an IU fan yelling, ‘Go Hoosiers’ at me or something like that. It’s really cool to be recognized around the state as someone they really want to go after.”

Cool, but surely a bit tiring.

Exactly 90 seconds after Brooks said those words, someone walked past the bench and yelled the familiar plea.

“Hey, go to IU!”

This wasn’t a fan decked out in red and white, Brooks shook his head slightly and turned to the reporter.

“That’s my teammate, man,” he said with a you-see-what-I-mean smile on his face.

Yes, the pressure is indeed on Brooks — a 6-foot-8 small forward — to stay close to home for his college career. Archie Miller is heading into his second season as IU’s head coach, and though the wins didn’t pile up in Year 1 — the Hoosiers went 16-15 — there is enthusiasm among the fan base that he’ll be the one to return the program to past glories.

That optimism only intensified Monday night, when Romeo Langford — a top-five player nationally in the class of 2018 and a New Albany, Ind., native — announced that he would stay close to home and play for the Hoosiers.

Indiana fans — and there were many in the stands for the Nike league games over the weekend — want Brooks to be the next in line.

Problem for them, just about everybody else wants him, too.

Five-star basketball recruit Keion Brooks says UK Coach John Calipari is telling him he could play just like Kevin Knox did for the Wildcats.

Michigan State started recruiting Brooks in the seventh grade when coaches spotted him playing while at a gym to scout another, older player. One of his first scholarship offers came from Bill Self and Kansas. Last fall, he became one of the first players in the 2019 class to land a coveted scholarship offer from Kentucky.

John Calipari has visited him multiple times over the past few months.

“They’re a very big school. I didn’t expect them to offer me so early,” Brooks told the Herald-Leader. “But I did know I put the work in. I worked hard enough to put myself in that position to get offers like that. I was surprised they offered early, but I felt like it was coming eventually.”

Brooks averaged 22.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this past season, leading his team to the state quarterfinals. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 16 overall prospect in the class of 2019.

The Spartans are the leaders on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page — and Brooks lauded their coaching staff for the recruiting job they’ve done on him so far — but he stressed that there are currently no favorites. He likes Michigan State. He also likes UK, Indiana and others, listing Purdue and Iowa as a couple more that have been on him hard. North Carolina entered the mix last week, and new Louisville head coach Chris Mack started recruiting Brooks during his Xavier days.

“He’s just trying to build on that now that he’s on a bigger stage,” Brooks said of the Cardinals’ coach.

He’s in no rush to make a college decision or even cut down his list of schools.

Brooks is still in the listening stages of his recruitment as he plays out the summer.

One particular pitch might have piqued his interest. It came from Calipari.

“He’s pitching me on being a big guard. Kind of like Kevin Knox — being able to move all over the floor and just be versatile,” Brooks said. “A lot like Kevin played this past year. He was able to shoot it on the perimeter. He would post smaller guys up and take bigger guys off the dribble.”

Asked if he’d like to do something like that at the next level, Brooks smiled.

“Yeah, I would love to do that.”

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