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UNC basketball: Garrison Brooks will look to ease the loss of Tony Bradley

How much production can the freshman big man provide?

North Carolina Tar Heels Championship Welcome Rally Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Tony Bradley’s departure has left an enormous hole down low for the North Carolina Tar Heels. With Luke Maye as the only returning big man, plenty of pressure will be placed on three unproven freshmen. I have already touched on two of these players (Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman), but perhaps the most promising of them all is Garrison Brooks.

Brooks is a six-foot-nine, 220-pound power forward from Auburn, Alabama. In his senior season with Auburn High School, he averaged 14.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game. To go along with that, he maintained a 63% field goal percentage.

Brooks originally committed to Mississippi State to play under his father, George Brooks, an assistant for Ben Howland. UNC was one of the top schools on his list so it came as no shock when he decided to come to Chapel Hill after requesting his release from the Bulldogs in March. The timing could not have been better.

The Tar Heels had recently learned that Tony Bradley was testing the NBA draft waters when they received news of Brooks’ commitment. While the general assumption at that point was that Bradley would return for his sophomore season, Brooks provided UNC with a solid safety net. Now, it looks like that safety net will be put to use.

His frame, as well as his ability to score efficiently and block shots draw some resemblances to former first team All-American Brice Johnson. It’s too soon to start mapping out his entire career at UNC, but Brooks has the feel of a steady and reliable three or four year player.

For a player of his size, Brooks is very agile and has little problem getting up and down the floor (a staple for Roy Williams’ big men). He is a stat sheet stuffer in the way that you usually see from athletic guards (Theo Pinson, for example). Brooks can score in multiple ways, he is a very effective rebounder, his seven-foot-one wingspan makes him an excellent rim protector, and he has great court vision. Brooks’ knack for spotting and delivering the ball to the open man is an extremely strong asset for the system he will play in.

Big-to-big passing is something Roy Williams really stresses in order to avoid teams shutting down post production by double teaming any ball that gets in the paint. Once he is fully adjusted the college game, Brooks will be instrumental in turning those types of situations into easy buckets. He can step out and hit 15-foot jumpers, and his post game is much more developed than both Huffman’s and Manley’s. Brooks is also said to be able to step out even further and hit threes. He has not had many opportunities to prove that, but if it is the case, don’t even get me started on a Berry/Williams/Johnson/Maye/Brooks lineup.

Brooks might not be as fit for the position as his counterparts, but he looks to be the safest bet to start at the five spot and consume much of the workload that would have gone to Bradley. Brooks playing out of position only seems right, though, considering the unconventional nature of the Tar Heels’ 2017-2018 roster.