The senior center is the last link to the Jaguars’ Elite Eight run. And this spring, Keels be the last “Augusta State” basketball player to graduate – the rest will finish with a different name on their diploma.
“I do think about that at times,” he said. “It’s kind of weird that ASU is changing its name and I’m graduating at the same time.”
Keels plays his final two games at Christenberry Fieldhouse this week. Augusta State plays host to Lander at 7:30 tonight; the women’s game starts at 5:30. Then, the Jaguars play host to Francis Marion for homecoming Saturday.
Entering his final season, Keels was looking to return to the Elite Eight after a three-year absence. Following a 6-0 start, Augusta State has lost 10 of their past 16 games, with three players either being indefinitely suspended or kicked off the squad. With four regular season games left, the Jaguars are fighting just to make the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
“I’m not disappointed,” Keels said. “Things happen. You can’t control those things. This team has not stopped, hasn’t stopped fighting. You can’t be disappointed if you’re giving everything you have on the floor.”
Keels, who graduates with a communications degree and also turns 23 on May 10, has given everything throughout his career. Though he won’t finish with any extraordinary points or rebounds totals, he does have more career blocks (143) than turnovers (84). Besides, stats don’t define him.
In Augusta State’s win Saturday at Georgia Southwestern, Keels dove for a loose ball and knocked it out of bounds off a defender. He later switched on a ball-screen, forcing an opponent to take a bad shot.
“He’s the king of invisible stats,” Jaguars coach Dip Metress said. “He does those little things on and off the court.”
The 6-foot-9 Keels entered Augusta State at 175 pounds and never became that dominant force in the middle, gaining just 30 pounds in five years. Instead, he became a lean, strong defender who can shoot mid-range jumpers and hook shots.
“That’s been an issue my whole life,” Keels said. “I can eat, but I can’t keep the weight on me. I eat everything. I like sweets, pasta, steaks, ribs, everything. I just can’t gain the weight.”
“Physically, he didn’t develop as much as I’d have liked,” Metress said. “But as a player and person, he did. He’s well-respected by his teammates and everyone on campus. Everybody likes him. He’s just a good dude.”