UNC Basketball 2018-19 Player Previews: Garrison Brooks

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Garrison Brooks
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Garrison Brooks /

Sophomore forward Garrison Brooks continues our player previews as he looks to build on a successful freshman campaign.

Coby White | Nassir LittleRechon Black

With basketball season already “tipped off”, thanks to last weekend’s secret scrimmage, we continue our player previews with that of sophomore Garrison Brooks.

Brooks comes into this year as a bit of an afterthought, looking to establish himself as the fifth starter as the year progresses. After a somewhat underrated freshman season, Brooks looks to be a big part of a loaded frontcourt for the Tar Heels in 2018.

With the addition of Nassir Little to an already talented frontcourt, of preseason ACC Player of the Year and AP All-American Luke Maye and fellow sophomore Sterling Manley, Brooks’ energy and work ethic is something that he needs to showcase in order to separate himself.

Though Brooks had a big role on last year’s team, there is no certainty that he will play the same role for this Carolina team.

Brooks will still find his time on the court, as Roy Williams always loves to rotate his bigs at a rapid pace, but his impact will be all based on his work ethic.

2017-18 Season in Review

Before he even stepped foot on Carolina’s campus last year, Brooks was on his way to Mississippi State to be a Bulldog. Every Tar Heels fan should remember the almost awkward commitment from Brooks as a high school senior as he barely broke a smile as he announced his intention to sign with the Bulldogs.

After a lot of whispering and rumors, Brooks finally decommitted from Mississippi State and eventually signed with the Heels in the spring.

As a freshman, Brooks started the year as the frontcourt mate of Luke Maye in the starting lineup for the first 16 games, eventually turning it over to Cameron Johnson once he was healthy.

During an up and down year, he finished the season with averages of 4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 14.6 minutes a game.

Though those numbers aren’t flashy, Brooks came on strong late in the year as an energy and hustle guy off the bench providing a spark in multiple games. No stat will show that more than his 61 offensive rebounds, second most on the team, and third on the team in defensive player of the game awards.

What to expect in 2018-19?

With the return of Cameron Johnson and the addition of McDonald’s All-American Nassir Little, Brooks will earn his playing time by once again, doing the dirty work.

All the talk during the offseason has revolved around whether or not coach Williams will go with a small lineup or go with his traditional two bigs. Regardless of what the final decision is, I still believe that Brooks will be an energy guy off the bench, just as he was the second half of last season.

The six-foot-nine sophomore will be asked to do a couple things. One, continue to be a force on the offensive boards.

His quick second jump proved to be valuable last year, so look for Brooks to be amongst the leaders again in the offensive rebound category.

Two, he needs to continue his defensive ways and be part of the weak side help that will make or break the defensive potential for the Heels.

His ability to come in and provide quality minutes on both ends of the floor will be just as important as the minutes that Manley, Maye and Little play.

Strengths and something he needs to improve on…

The biggest strength of Brooks’ that pops out is his defensive ability. Though he may be slightly undersized, he makes up for it with his weak-side defense and awareness.

One of the top weak-side defensive big men under Roy Williams, he uses his high IQ and footwork to be able to slide in and protect the backside below the rim.

Brooks’ footwork allows him to switch on to smaller players and keep them in front on drives. As mentioned earlier, Brooks ranked third on the team in defensive player of the game awards last season, behind the likes of Joel Berry and Kenny Williams.

One part of Brooks’ game not mentioned is his offensive ability.

Not a guy who Carolina will run their offense through, and most likely will never be, he does need to be more aggressive looking for his shot at times.

More. Roy Williams Praises Coby White. light

With good touch around the rim, Brooks’ mid-range ability is something that I am really intrigued about heading into the season. Depending on which other bigs are on the floor with him, his ability to stretch the floor to the free throw line extended is something that would greatly improve the Carolina offense, something that shouldn’t be lacking.

Being able to keep the defense honest, even if he doesn’t attempt more shots, will keep the weak-side occupied, creating more opportunities for cutters in the lane; and with his passing ability, it would just be another way to create easy opportunities.

Bold prediction

Honestly, I think Brooks’ role has already been cemented on this team for the current season, and that is a key role player off the bench. I just don’t see much more with all of the talent and depth in the frontcourt.

If I were to make a bold statement though, I would say that Brooks’ offseason transition puts him in the starting lineup for the entire season, playing over 20 minutes a game.

When the season comes to a close, hopefully on April 8, the sophomore forward will end his year with an average around 10 points and 7 rebounds a game.

As I said, I don’t foresee any crazy jump in production from Brooks from last year to this, but his importance and consistency is something that will be invaluable for the Tar Heels.