A late summer of 2016 recruitment that resulted in Garrison Brooks choosing Mississippi State reignited when Brooks obtained a release from the Bulldogs this past spring. North Carolina swooped in quickly and this time made short work of the competition: Brooks gave the Tar Heels their third post commitment from the 2017 class.
Of the three 2017 signees, Brooks, Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley, Brooks may be the most polished. He has good hand-eye coordination and, importantly, already moves his feet fairly well inside. He's able to make post moves with his back to the basket that enable him to elude opposing big men while staying on balance and getting a shot onto the rim without getting blocked or severely altered.
From a stylistic point of view, Brooks should fit well into Roy Williams's offense. Not only does he possess a workable post game that should improve significantly over time, he has a very strong frame that should enable him to become one of the stronger frontcourt players in the ACC. And though not a gazelle or high-flyer, he does jump fairly well with a couple steps to generate momentum.
Additionally, he possesses some versatility as well. Brooks can step out and knock down facing jump shots with range to 15 feet. Similar to some of the shots that Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley took during the triumphant 2016-17 season, he doesn't look like a guard shooting the ball, by any means, but he does have range that he can expand upon as he matures.
He's also a fairly solid interior passer and from the high post. Brooks understands the basics of offensive spacing, a plus for any young big man and particularly if UNC becomes smaller over the next couple of seasons due to the expected roster composition. That's because there's likely to be more movement and cutting from the perimeter into the paint, and if Brooks can receive a pass, draw attention and find that cutter, the Heels will pick up additional easy buckets.
When he's engaged and playing well, Brooks also is a solid rebounder. His numbers were inconsistent on the travel circuit, but he appeared to find greater energy and confidence over the course of the 2016 summer. Defensively, he should be able to body up opponents and seal them off to protect the defensive glass, and thanks to his size and nice timing he does get occasional blocks.
Brooks possesses reactions that should enable him to hold his own, but certainly he won't out-reflex the majority of major college opponents. He also doesn't have tremendous straight-up leaping ability, and while he's able to get away with that at times due to his size — and, in fairness, given his frame strength always should be an asset for him — there's a risk or even likelihood that finishing around the basket will prove challenging against certain foes.
Additionally, his numbers have been inconsistent. While he could dominate smaller competition at times in high school, he performed up and down on the travel circuit. That inconsistency likely explains his relatively modest national reputation, although it's worth noting that he changed teams mid-stream in 2016 and finished on a very high note.
The other question pertains to his long-term position at Carolina. If he's a power forward, does he possess the lateral quickness to defend on the perimeter? Fans recently observed a quicker, more agile athlete in Isaiah Hicks struggle in that capacity for four years due to fouling, and Brooks is much more of a post than Hicks was. But if he's a center, will he be able to establish post scoring and rebound sufficiently to anchor the middle?
Because the Tar Heels lack an experienced center heading into the 2017-18 season, Brooks likely will open practice with an opportunity to earn a starting position. He'll be competing not only against the other freshmen for minutes, but also against junior forward Luke Maye.
But of the three incoming big men, he may be the safest bet. One might argue that Brandon Huffman's explosive straight-up leaping ability and unbridled aggression will enable him to take command, or that Sterling Manley's superior length will give him the edge.
In Brooks's case, however, he brings a more complete package without as many obvious pitfalls. He does a lot of things well — or at least okay — and that makes him competitive from day one. If he can raise those levels to very good or even excellent, he could become a multi-year starter during his time in Chapel Hill.