After a half hour fielding questions from a group of high school and college journalists, Garrison Brooks decided to stick around.
There he sat in the UNC basketball press room, graciously taking pictures with the girls and answering eager questions from the boys. He didn’t do it because he had to, but because he wanted to. The teens swarmed him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was enjoying himself.
Steve Kirschner, head of communications for Tar Heel hoops, was quick to call it a “first” for Brooks – doing more than what was required in a media setting.
It seemed like something a leader would do.
Leader. It’s a position the Lafayette, Alabama native hasn’t yet found himself in midway through his North Carolina basketball career. Yet after six Tar Heel departures following the 2018-19 season – three graduations, two NBA draft exits and a transfer – head coach Roy Williams has made Brooks’ new role quite apparent.
“He’s made it very evident – crystal clear – that the juniors and the seniors have to play a big role,” Brooks said. “Because we have six new guys, and they’re not used to the Carolina way. He’s made it clear to us that we have to be very good every day and lead by example.”
Those six new faces are made up of a pair of grad transfers, a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans and two more first years. The two transfers already have a combined six years of college basketball under their belts – but for the four first-years, the onus is on Brooks and a few others to show them that all-important Carolina way.
“As a leader, you try to make everyone feel comfortable around you,” Brooks said. “Make them feel like they can come to you about anything, whether it’s related to basketball, off the court, just becoming their friend, their brother.”
Upperclassmen leadership or no, incorporating six newcomers into a college rotation will be tough. Brooks described the team’s first practice this week as “a learning experience.”