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USATSI

Things are finally looking up for Kentucky. The Wildcats flipped the script last week by snapping a six-game losing streak with two straight wins to start the new year. They got even better news on Thursday when sophomore big man Keion Brooks was medically cleared to return to action.

Brooks is the only current player on the Wildcats roster who scored a point on last year's team. He has not played yet this season, missing all nine games with a calf injury that popped up in the preseason and took longer than expected to heal.

Brooks has been a leader in the locker room this season, even volunteering to appear in postgame media after a tough loss to North Carolina last month when other Wildcats players opted not to do so. He's also a stabilizing force that should shore up UK's frontcourt. At 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds, his experience in the system makes him a candidate to slot in the rotation right away at power forward even with Jacob Toppin, Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware getting good run there in recent weeks.

Because of the injury, it's unclear how effective he'll be -- and how quickly UK will give him a full workload -- but he proved an effective role player in limited opportunities as a freshman last season, averaging 4.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in just 15.1 minutes per game. At the very least he should add some needed depth and experience for a UK team thin on both with a grueling slate of SEC games on deck that includes Florida, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia in the next two weeks.