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UNC Basketball: Garrison Brooks is the lone bright spot of the last few weeks

The junior forward deserves praise for his efforts during the Tar Heels’ losing skid.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the North Carolina Tar Heels’ hard-fought loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Garrison Brooks fell to the floor in what one could imagine was a mixture of frustration and being gassed. The junior forward played 48 out of 50 minutes in the Tar Heels’ loss. As his teammates rushed to help him up, one couldn’t help but to feel bad for him. He gave everything he had trying to help Roy Williams finally pass Dean Smith on the all-time wins list.

Brooks has been a catalyst for the Tar Heels, despite their inability to squeak out a victory in their last five games. He has averaged 23 points per contest and, most impressively, hasn’t played less than 36 minutes in a single game. Brooks knows how important he is to the team. When he isn’t on the court, the team looks disheveled, which is to be expected already for a team without their point guard.

His run of great games recently has left fans with (some) excitement for when Cole Anthony comes back, no matter what the record of the team is. Despite the losing streak, the pieces of this team are starting to come into focus: Brandon Robinson as the go-to perimeter player, Cole Anthony as the lead guard, Garrison Brooks as the go-to post player. The bad thing is, we have hardly seen those pieces on the floor together.

If we are being honest, a NCAA tournament appearance for this team is extremely unlikely, unless the selection committee decides to grant UNC the “Syracuse 14-loss exemption.” Should this team miss the tournament, two of those three pieces will be gone assuming Anthony declares for the draft.

But Brooks will still be around and will be the same main piece of next year’s team who will have lofty expectations from day one. Upon arrival at North Carolina, Brooks has shown time after time that he was the best player out of the 2017 recruiting class, aside from Cameron Johnson who was a graduate transfer.

The big man is now up to 15 points on 54% shooting and 9.4 boards per game, something that I’m not sure many people expected from him from day one. Roy Williams found a gem in Brooks. But there is reason to believe he can improve even more.

He knocked down a three-pointer earlier this year that looked oh-so-smooth, leaving us begging for him to take more of those, as opposed to the 19-foot two-point jump shot he loves to take. One area he could improve is quickly passing out of the double-team, because he is going to start getting it more and more often.

While there is plenty to complain about with this team, Brooks is not among them. He has been exciting and refreshing to watch in this tough stretch, dunking all over people like Jalen Cone, and even looking a lot like Brice Johnson when it comes to play style.

We can thank Brooks for giving us something to look forward to every game, because sometimes it has been tough.