I’m glad I’m writing Nysier Brooks’ RPR after the Cincinnati Bearcats played their Red/Black scrimmage on Saturday. The reason for that is simple: Brooks balled out in the exhibition. His 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks showed a lot in an exhibition game that doesn’t mean anything in the standings, but did give a glimpse into how this year’s team will perform.
Now, that glimpse is obviously skewed. Keith Williams played 37 minutes and as good as he might be, he won’t be getting anywhere near that many minutes this season. That means that Brooks’ numbers were also more inflated than they will be during the season, obviously, but it doesn’t mean he will not take a step forward on the development side.
At 6’11 and without an outside shot, Brooks is a traditional big guy, especially in terms of Bearcats basketball. He defends well, whether its one-on-one or in help situations. He also blocks shots, grabs rebounds and pretty much just out hustles whoever he is matched up with. Brooks only averaged 8.5 minutes per game last season, meaning that hustle was only felt for short periods. However, he did start to see more time on the floor in the second half of the season, seemingly supplanting Tre Scott as the top frontcourt option off the bench. In the final five games of the season, Brooks played at least 10 minutes four times, including both NCAA Tournament games. Now, he didn’t produce much in the box score during that time, but he showed that Cronin’s trust in him, even if its just as a reserve, had grown.
On a per game basis, Brooks’ numbers obviously aren’t anything to marvel at. He averaged 2.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game. If you extrapolate that over 40 minutes, you’re left with solid, if not spectacular production (11.3 points, 7.6 rebounds) except when you look at his blocks. Brooks would have averaged more than three rejections per game if he played all 40 minutes. Of course, that’s never going to happen. Even Troy Caupain didn’t do that, but the fact remains, Brooks can protect the rim. In fact, he led the Bearcats in block percentage last season (9.2 percent). The next closest player was Kyle Washington, who was a whole four percent below him.
In year two for Brooks, minutes may be a little more generously passed his way, especially if he really has improved as a scorer and a rebounder, as he illustrated in the Red/Black scrimmage. He was fine offensively last season, in that he put the ball in the basket on the rare occasions he had, shooting 52.8 percent from the floor. But his offensive game, which may never be as spectacular as that of, say, Washington, needs to catch up with his defensive work at least a little. Brooks had a defensive rating of 95.3, which is pretty good. His offensive rating (99.2) did not meet that standard or come particularly close to it.
Now that he has a year under his belt, Brooks will be expected to improve, even if he plays a similar role to last season. It looks like he’s ready to do just that.