Decision to ‘keep my options open’ reportedly paying off for Kentucky’s Keion Brooks

·4 min read

Keion Brooks entered the NCAA transfer portal this spring as a just-in-case precautionary move. After participating in the NBA pre-draft process, it reportedly has become the next step in his basketball career.

Reports on Monday had Brooks withdrawing from this year’s NBA Draft and looking to transfer to another college. The former UK player had Arizona, Notre Dame and Washington in mind as possible transfer destinations, according to reports. Notre Dame is about 90 miles from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind.

During a telephone conversation from the NBA Elite Camp the previous Monday, Brooks spoke of concentrating on an NBA career.

Why enter the transfer portal?

“It was just to keep my options open,” he said. “That’s something my agent and my parents and I talked about.”

Brooks said he was “all locked into this NBA process. I don’t plan on going back to school. But you never know what can happen. And when that time comes, we’ll have a conversation about it.

“But you just don’t want to be stuck with one of two options if that were to be the case. Give everybody a chance to recruit me again seemed the right thing to do.”

When asked what college programs had expressed interest in bringing him in as a transfer, Brooks said, “I couldn’t tell you. My parents and my older brother handled all of it. They don’t talk to me about it. I don’t ask about it because it’s not something I’m worried about.”

Keion Brooks reportedly has withdrawn from this year’s NBA Draft but most likely will not be rejoining the Wildcats for his senior season.
Keion Brooks reportedly has withdrawn from this year’s NBA Draft but most likely will not be rejoining the Wildcats for his senior season.

While various mock drafts did not have Brooks being drafted, ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas cautioned against thinking going undrafted means no NBA career. He noted that the Miami Heat had eight undrafted players on its roster this season.

“Keion is a really good player,” Bilas said. “There are guys who are going to be drafted high because they have the potential to be great players and difference-making players on the NBA level.

“And then there are guys who can play in the league and have good productive careers for a long time.”

Bilas saw Brooks playing for Kentucky in the 2021-22 season as “a good valuable piece on a really good team. Is he going to be the type of player who’s going to be your leading scorer and get the lion’s share of the shots? No. But he’s also the type of player who can get you 27 (points) at Kansas. And you don’t win that game without him.”

With Kentucky basketball synonymous with one-and-done players and preparing players for the NBA, Brooks acknowledged that playing four seasons for UK might carry a stigma.

“People probably do view it that way,” he said. “That’s not for me to be concerned with. My journey is different from anybody else’s. So I can’t get into the game of comparing myself or trying to emulate what someone else did. God put me on my own path, and I’m ready for it.”

The NCAA deadline for withdrawing from this year’s NBA Draft and retaining college eligibility is June 1. The NBA deadline for withdrawing from the draft is June 13.

The feedback he had received from the NBA included praise and advice on needed improvement, Brooks said.

“They love my ability to defend and switch and guard multiple positions,” he said. “In the interview process, they said they love the way I answer questions and that tells them I’m smart and I’m intelligent.”

NBA teams also suggested his three-point shooting needed to improve, Brooks said.

When asked if he did not show all he could do in his three seasons for Kentucky, Brooks said, “Oh yeah, definitely. Something I can show them for sure is show them I’m a better shooter than what I was in college.”

He alluded to his shooting accuracy last season on free throws (78.3-percent) and two-point shots (52.2 percent) as evidence that “there’s nothing mechanically wrong with my shot. I just don’t think I got enough game reps up to build that confidence and prove to people that I can shoot a three.”

Other players who have reportedly withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will play another college season include forward KJ Williams, who transferred from Murray State to LSU, and forward Matthew Mayer, who played for Baylor. The transfer destinations Mayer reportedly is considering include Alabama and Arkansas.

Game over? Louisville makes major move in pursuit of longtime Kentucky target DJ Wagner.

A big week coming up for Kentucky recruiting. And top UK links from the Next Cats blog.

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