Comfortable and confident, Garrison Brooks hoping to help Tar Heels in new ways
CHARLOTTE — The Garrison Brooks that held court with the media on Tuesday afternoon in Charlotte was unrecognizable from the shy, uncertain kid that arrived at North Carolina two seasons ago.
Between laughs about teammates Armando Bacot and Sterling Manley and breaking down what it takes to lead the Tar Heels, Brooks thought back on about what he’d tell himself if he would tell himself as a freshman.
“Just be more comfortable, try to loosen up,” he said. “You’re really tight; you’re scared, you’re nervous to make a mistake.”
The turn wasn’t immediate, as Brooks said it took him until last January to truly become comfortable at Carolina.
But when it finally happened, there was no looking back, as Brooks went on to become the Tar Heels’ defensive MVP last season while averaging 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Off the court, Brooks asserted himself as one of the most interesting players to talk with in the Carolina locker room, offering thoughtful responses to questions that often didn’t merit such responses.
It’s no coincidence that his Instagram bio read, “48 Laws of Power: Law 25.”
In that book, published in 1998, Law 25 is “Re-Create Yourself,” starting, “Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you.”
In addition to his growth off the court, both Brooks and Coach Williams are looking for the next step in his evolution on the floor.
“We need him to do a little more scoring for us, there’s no question about that, be a little more offensive minded,” Williams said. “I don’t think he’s shot a three in practice yet, and I’m happy about that, but we want him to be able to shoot a face-up jumpshot and even more so, catch it in the post and be an offensive threat and not just catch it and start looking where he can pass the ball to.”
Along with telling himself to get more comfortable, that was the other thing that Brooks would have pointed out to the freshman version of himself.
“Look at the basket, man,” he said, speaking to himself. “I never looked the basket to score.”
That changed rapidly this summer as Brooks went to work on developing his mid-range jumper, to the point that Williams said that Brooks actually hurt his wrist.
During a practice open to reporters after Carolina’s media day last week, Brooks stuck around afterward to get in extra work on his shot, stepping to the top of the key and consistently drilling jumpers.
Brooks doesn’t quite have the green light on his shot yet, but he’s progressing.
“You don’t give him the right to shoot the jumper; you give him the right if he makes them,” Williams said.
It’s a natural stroke that Brooks said only required a few tweaks to get where he wanted, and it’s something he feels will be vital to the team’s success.
“I really tried to work on it during the offseason, so I think that was the biggest thing for me,” he said. “I had to really work on that. I think if that aspect of my game, if that’s improved, our team will be a lot better.”
Regardless of whether his shot is falling, Brooks knows he can affect his team positively on and off the floor and that’s a role he’s embracing.
In the past, he’s tried to set the right example while working quietly.
That has to change as one of the program’s veterans who is expected to speak up and hold everyone accountable.
“I have to learn how to talk to everyone and find a way to reach everyone and help them understand what we need to do,” he said. “It means a lot, because Coach believes in me, he trusts me to really lead our guys and tell them the right things and try to get them in the right spots.”