If you had told Garrison Brooks, the senior North Carolina striker, that his first double-double of the 2020-2021 season wouldn't happen until January, this year's ACC Preseason Player of the Year would have thought you were lying.
But here we are.
It was a slower start to this year's campaign for the UNC leader, who averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds per game for the tar heels last season. But against the Syracuse Orange and their 2-3 zone defense Tuesday night, Brooks broke out for 14 points in the first half en route to 16 points and 10 boards in the 81-75 win for UNC.
"I had to bring it tonight because I knew I had to play better," said Brooks. "(…) I drew a line and said: & # 39; I'll play better and help my team. & # 39;"
And that's exactly what the veteran did.
Despite his quiet second half, Brooks was the only force strong enough to keep the tar heels early in the game after Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim scored 18 points in the first half. With his previous experience against the Orange Zone, all the UNC guards had to do was feed Brooks in the middle of the color, grab the occasional offensive ricochet, and repeat until half-time.
The simple process, and the rewards that North Carolina drew from it, were a new change for Brooks from making his first appearance on the grid since playing the last three games for UNC after the team's 79-76 loss to NC off the bench Status.
But, as UNC head coach Roy Williams explained after the game, the benchen wasn't for the same reasons fans threw around: lack of energy, poor body language, etc.
On the contrary.
Brooks asked Williams to put him on the bench – yes, one of last year's second-team All-ACC greats wanted to be removed from the grid – because he didn't want point guard Caleb Love from the first year of the only one was downgraded to the sidelines after the ugly loss to the wolf pack.
"That was his suggestion to me," said Williams. "He's got the best attitude you can have and it's difficult for the guys doing TV stuff in their homes 500 miles away to comment. Garrison doesn't have bad body language. Garrison doesn't have a bad attitude. He damned nearly perfect. "
This is exactly the kind of player Brooks has played for his teammates, his coaches and this fan base over the past two seasons. He was a constant pillar for everyone around him to rely on during one of the worst stretches in program history.
And now that he's back on the starting grid, he has the potential to maximize this larger-than-life leadership aspect on and off the pitch going forward.
"It was great. We need Garrison," said first year security guard RJ Davis. "Garrison is a leader on this team and we need him to come out and just be Garrison Brooks. He did that for us tonight I think this is the beginning of when he becomes Garrison Brooks again. "
With this UNC team now gaining a foothold on the basis of three tough ACC victories in a row, the Tar Heels couldn't have asked for a better time for Brooks to return to his old self.
"It was cool, I mean it was good to see him do that, but I still feel like there is another level we can take it to," said second great Armando Bacot. "For both of us, I thought we were just one species." Played OK and I definitely think we could have played better and that's the type of player he is. I think we're going to see an upward trend from Garrison going back to the old man he is. "
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