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After 3 unprecedented years with Kentucky basketball, Keion Brooks to leave for Washington

After 3 unprecedented years with Kentucky basketball, Keion Brooks to leave for Washington

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Keion Brooks is returning to college basketball. Just not at Kentucky.

The Wildcats’ starting forward last season, who recently withdrew his name from the NBA draft pool, announced Monday he would play his senior season of college basketball at Washington.

Brooks declared for the NBA draft on April 4 while leaving open the option to return to school. Later that month, he entered the transfer portal but in interviews at the NBA G League combine said he was still focusing on starting a professional career.

After not being invited to the NBA’s scouting combine, he removed his name from the draft pool.

Last season, Brooks averaged 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season.

Ohio State, Maryland, UCLA, Arizona, Notre Dame, Iowa, Florida, Mississippi State, South Carolina, BYU, DePaul, UNLV, Nebraska, Kansas State and Memphis were also linked to Brooks as possible transfer destinations.

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After 3 unprecedented years with Kentucky basketball, Keion Brooks to leave for Washington

Kentucky forward Keion Brooks Jr. (12) is guarded by Tennessee forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (2) in the NCAA college basketball game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. Px Uthoops Kentucky

The Fort Wayne, Indiana, native endured an unprecedented Kentucky career.

The 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward served as a role player as a freshman on a team that won the 2020 Southeastern Conference regular season title but saw its season end early with the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the NCAA Tournament.

He missed the first six games of his sophomore season with a leg injury. By the time he returned to the court, Kentucky was well on its way to an abysmal 9-16 record.

Brooks moved into the starting lineup full-time for the first time as a junior but continued to battle the inconsistency that has characterized most of his career. He was at his best in Kentucky’s marquee win of the season with 27 points and eight rebounds in the blowout of Kansas in Lawrence.

That performance was the second game in a stretch of five consecutive double-digit scoring games. Brooks’ form dipped again down the stretch as he failed to reach double digits in three of the final four games.

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After the season-ending loss to St. Peter’s, Brooks offered what could have been perceived as a goodbye to Kentucky.

“I love and enjoy being around the staff, having really good and great times,” Brooks said. “My tenure here has been a little funky and difficult, a little different, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“Coming here, I’ve learned a lot beyond being a basketball player, but Coach Cal has done a great job of shaping me into a better man and that being said, I don’t regret anything that I’ve been through as long as I’ve been here.”

UK coach John Calipari signaled in recent radio interviews he did not expect Brooks to return to Kentucky. With Brooks transferring, the pressure increases on forward Jacob Toppin, who also tested the draft waters before returning to UK, to take on a larger role.

Toppin, who split time with Brooks at the four last season, will likely compete with sophomore Daimion Collins for the starting spot alongside National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe in the Kentucky frontcourt.

Junior Lance Ware is set to return as Tshiebwe’s primary backup.

Email Jon Hale at [email protected]; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Keion Brooks: Kentucky basketball forward transferring to Washington