LEXINGTON — Keion Brooks’ last game was at Florida last season. He will return to the lineup when the Wildcats take on the Gators today in Gainesville.
Brooks, who suffered a foot injury during preseason workouts, was cleared to play on Thursday. Brooks missed the first nine games and is the team’s lone returning experienced scholarship player. Brooks had five double-figure scoring games last season. He scored 10 points at Florida in the regular-season finale last year, sparking an 18-point second-half comeback with two 3-pointers.
“I met with him today and it was a little bit emotional,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Thursday. “We have all been patient with this, but obviously we all wanted Keion out there with us, no one more so than him. Now he is.”
Brooks had been conditioning and taking part in non-contact drills, but returned full speed on Thursday ahead of the team’s third Southeastern Conference game of the season. Calipari said Brooks is ready to contribute in a role that he sees fit for the moment.
“When he and I talked about how he would fit in with what we’ve been doing as a team, his comment was, ‘Coach, I really trust you. I’ll do whatever this team needs me to do,’ ” Calipari said. “(It’s) pretty amazing stuff when you think about this is someone who came back as the leader of our team and the only guy who played minutes with us a season ago. All Keion cares about is trying to help this team win.”
Brooks averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 31 games last year and made six starts, He shot 47.2% from the floor and added 13 blocks and 11 steals.