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UNC Basketball: Garrison Brooks is looking to fill a void as the next great Tar Heel big man

Can Garrison Brooks continue his development and fill the shoes of the greats who came before him?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament- Iona vs North Carolina Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Garrison Brooks’ commitment to the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2017 came at a crucial time in the recent recruiting timeline for the Tar Heels. Coming off a national championship, Tony Bradley left early for the NBA, which was pretty surprising. The commitment of Brooks was not only big because the Tar Heels secured him after his de-commitment from Mississippi State after having put a lot of work into his recruitment, but also because he was a front court addition that the Tar Heels needed desperately after losing Bradley along with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks to graduation.

Fast forward two years later to Brooks’ junior year and he has now become the most counted on big man in the Tar Heels lineup. Brooks came out of high school without much fanfare. He was not a top-100 recruit in his class, but the importance he has to his team is higher than most recruits in the 2017 class who are still in school.

Brooks was counted upon to contribute right away in 2017, and did so at a serviceable rate for being a freshman in Roy Williams’ complicated offense. He started his first sixteen games a Tar Heel, something that not a lot of unheralded freshmen can say. He was moved to the bench that season when the Tar Heels decided to embrace the small ball lineup, using Theo Pinson at the four.

Even as an underclassman, Brooks showed that he could be a solid contributor. He did a solid job of playing the five for North Carolina over the first two years, which is not his natural position. He has shown an incredible ability to adapt to being put in tough situations this far as well as showing a real aptitude for defense.

But one of the most impressive parts about Brooks’ game is his development that has already taken place in just a two-year span, which leaves Tar Heel fans hoping for more from the junior forward.

Brooks was named to the preseason All-ACC second team this past week, which now means that he will not be able to fly under the radar for much longer. Defenses are going to game plan for him now, which will most certainly make things tougher for him on offense. But if the development of his game continues from year two to year three the same way it did from year one to year two, Brooks could easily find himself fulfilling that promise regardless.

A big year from Brooks could be the launching point for a successful year for the Tar Heels as a team. When you look back on Roy Williams’ best teams at UNC, they all had an upperclassman big man who anchored the post. As a matter of fact, the staple of every national championship-winning team Roy Williams has had at UNC is a great point guard and a great big man.

The duo that the Tar Heels can ride this year is Cole Anthony and Brooks. Nobody is asking Brooks to be 2005 Sean May, or 2009 Tyler Hansbrough. But the junior forward will arguably be the most important player on the roster this year because its construction revolves around him.

A good season and a leap forward from Garrison Brooks will likely mean big things for the Tar Heels. If he delivers a special season, they could be playing on the final Monday night of the season.