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UNC Basketball Surprise of the Year: Garrison Brooks

The junior big man was expected to take a leap forward, but I’m not sure anybody saw this coming.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-North Carolina vs Virginia Tech Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In a North Carolina Tar Heel basketball season that was filled with a lot of disappointments, there were several bright spots for the team. Outside of individual performances, the Tar Heels still swept NC State, defeated a top-ten team at the time in Oregon, and maintained competitiveness when it would have been easy to fold in on the season.

From a player standpoint, there were several surprises from the players. Jeremiah Francis impressed in the first several games he played before hitting a freshman wall of injuries and poor performances. Anthony Harris looked as if he was going to help the Tar Heels turn the season around when Cole Anthony suffered a knee injury. And Christian Keeling’s performance in the second-half of the year gave the fans the small hope of a potential ACC Tournament run.

But when looking at the season as a whole, there was no greater surprise than the performance of Garrison Brooks from the first game to the last game.

Brooks was expected to come into the 2019-2020 season and be a key cog for the Tar Heels. While the team as a whole disappointed, he held up his end of the bargain. His minutes per game jumped from 23 to 35, which also coincided with his move back to his natural position, a power forward. Brooks had been playing out of position his first two years as a center, but the move to power forward allowed him to be more of a roamer around the free throw line into the low post, as opposed to being exclusively in the low post.

All of Brooks’ stats took a significant jump this season, going from averaging 8 points per game in 2018-19 to 17 points per game this year. He added three rebounds per game from his sophomore season average of 5.6. And while his field goal percentage dropped four percent, he doubled his shot attempts, so the drop in percentage doesn’t have that great of an impact if he is scoring at a higher volume.

The big man also had the most surprising single-game performance of the season, dropping 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a January 11th loss to Georgia Tech. Brooks was North Carolina’s best high-volume scorer this season, breaking the 20-point mark twelve times on the season.

Nobody saw Brooks turning into the scoring machine he became this season. He showed he is a player who can step out to 18 feet and knock down a long-range jumper. He even knocked down a pair of three-pointers this season. .

Despite the season ending in disappointing fashion for the Tar Heels, Brooks kept the good performances up until the end, averaging 23.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game through the ACC Tournament loss to Syracuse.

By the end of the season, Brooks had earned his way onto the second-team All-ACC team, as well as winning the Most Improved Player award in the conference.

Next season may be difficult for Brooks to maintain this production, especially with the front court of the Tar Heels having the chance to be one of the deepest in the Country.

But there is no doubt that without the performance of Garrison Brooks, the Tar Heels season would have somehow been even more depressing.

So in addition to the two ACC accolades Brooks received, we are adding the most prestigious of the awards to his trophy room: The Tar Heel Blog’s Surprise of the Year Award. Congrats Garrison!