NIL played role in bringing Kenny Brooks to Kentucky WBB: 'You have to have it.'

On3 imageby:Zack Geoghegan04/01/24


There were a handful of critical factors that helped convince Kenny Brooks to leave a terrific position he had built at Virginia Tech for the Kentucky Wildcats. A renovated Memorial Coliseum was one and the opportunity to unearth a “sleeping giant” another.

But in today’s era of college basketball, you won’t get far without a commitment from the University to Name, Image, and Likeness.

The Kentucky women’s basketball program is fully committed to NIL (even hiring a full-time NIL coordinator last offseason), and used that as a major selling point to bring Brooks to Lexington. NIL isn’t an area a school can afford to be behind in if the goal is to compete on a national stage.

“Last year, the NIL opportunities were not as abundant as they are now,” Brooks, who was hired as the Kentucky WBB head coach last week, said Monday morning on KSR. “It’s changed the way you recruit, it changes the way you have to have your philosophy, and it’s a very important thing. That’s one of those things that drew me to Kentucky, was the commitment through the NIL opportunities. Because you have to have it. We have a tremendous collective at Club Blue NIL. And I think that’s going to really help us be in the ballpark.”

NIL will be especially important early on in his tenure as Brooks looks to lift Kentucky out from the bottom of the SEC. As the 2024-25 roster currently stands, only five players remain committed to the program heading into the offseason, in addition to two incoming recruits. That’s just seven spots filled with eight still wide-open.

Whether it be through the transfer portal or high school ranks, Brooks will have to hit the recruiting ground running. The portal works fast. Having some money to throw around in his pitches should help build a respectable squad heading into his debut season.

“A lot of people are still adjusting to NIL,” Brooks added. “I think it’s a necessary adjustment if you want to be competitive, especially in this league and nationally. And that’s something that has really come to the forefront as I have gone recruiting in the portal now. That is a subject that comes up very very quickly in the conversation. Sometimes it’s the first thing.”

Nearly every player from last season’s Kentucky women’s basketball team was involved with NIL in some form. Whether it was Maddie Scherr entering into agreements with car dealerships, Cassidy Rowe‘s deal with Raising Cane’s, or Nyah Leveretter‘s shoe deal with Steve Madden, there was something in the NIL space for everyone.

Now imagine what those deals could look like under a program consistently winning 20-plus games season after season.

“If we want to be one of the best players in the SEC, we’ve got to be at the forefront of the NIL collectives,” Brooks said. “If you don’t adjust, I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to be in the game.”

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