New & Improved
SPARTANBURG, SC – One might say Garrison Brooks is a changed man.
Actually, Garrison himself is saying that, again repeating his new mantra following North Carolina’s 78-67 victory at Wofford on Tuesday night at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.
A career-high 20 points, an exuberant way, and even more talkative to the media, the new and improved Garrison Brooks has looked so far like he’s now exactly what the Tar Heels need from the interior.
“Just a lot more confident and just being in the right spot,” he replied, when asked why he looks so very different on the floor in just about every manner.
Brooks said multiple times Tuesday night he’s taking “everything personally” and is clearly a man on a mission. He’s embraced being in the next level, first with his mind, and then his body, which is a transitive process.
A year ago, the idea of Brooks pumping his fists into the air after seemingly every bucket would have been foreign to most observers. Fans in the first few rows rarely heard his verbal gyrations, and clearing out space, turning to the rim and jamming home the ball – repeatedly – just wasn’t often associated with one of Brooks’ standard performances.
On Tuesday, that’s exactly who he was.
Brooks radiated confidence, and it translated into everything he did on the floor.
“It’s experience,” teammate Cam Johnson said about the 6-9 sophomore from Alabama. “That’s what experience does for you. Getting a grasp of what we want from our guys, what coach wants from you, goes a long way to your comfort on the court and he took advantage of the opportunity.
“He’s very physical, he always has been, but he’s gotten stronger in the offseason, and coming into this season he’s more aggressive, he’s more in tune, he’s the one that’s the aggressor on the court now. It’s been huge for him and it showed tonight.”
And it’s why he started the game for the Tar Heels.
Roy Williams could have gone small and started Luke Maye at the five and Johnson at the four, making room for ballyhooed prospect Nassir Little at the small forward spot, but the Hall of Fame coach didn’t. He loves bigs – he loves multiple bigs – and he’d much rather mold a team with a reliable and productive inside presence then try to piece things together with what would be an unconventional lineup in his eyes.
Hence, he started Brooks, and for just cause, which Williams noted was apparent in Tuesday’s victory.
“There’s a reason he started, and it’s because of those guys playing that position he’s played the best,” Williams said. “He’s the most dependable. I jumped on everybody except him at halftime because in the first half we took really bad shots… Garrison kept us in the game in the first half with his inside play.”
Brooks was 9-15 from the floor, the 15 being a crucial number because he took no bad shots, thus he regularly availed himself against stout Wofford big man Cameron Jackson. In addition to the five rebounds Brooks pulled down, he also defended Jackson, rendering him a relative non-factor for the Terriers offensively on the night.
A year ago, when Wofford left UNC with a victory, Jackson scored 18 points and only 22 of the Terriers’ 64 field goal attempts were from 3-point range. On Tuesday, he finished with just 10 points and 35 of Wofford’s 63 shot attempts were from beyond the arc.
Oh, Jackson blocked eight shots in the Dean Dome, but Tuesday he blocked none. Credit Brooks for much of the difference in Jackson’s performances and his own.
It was just one performance, but certainly an impressive one. And it could be the start of something new.
“It could be the beginning of something,” Brooks said. “I just have to keep going.”