Shaquille Keith: Taking on Texas
Written by Jaspreet Grewal
There yearns a fire inside of everyone. An appetite to procure goals set out by ourselves. An unwithering drive to succeed. A determination to be the best, or close to it.
There’s a catch, though. Although everyone has ‘it’, only some actually utilize ‘it’. That is, the full out commitment and pledge to develop and ultimately achieve the impractical.
To foster a mindset catered to a single, almost unattainable goal takes special type of person. It’s a maturation process that doesn’t come so quickly for many; a psychological development that, generally, doesn’t really register until early adulthood.
For Shaquille Keith, however, it’s a rite of passage endured at an early age; a phase of growth and maturity– something that’s telling through his words.
“Just stay focused,” said Keith when asked about the mindset he needs to carry in order to achieve his goals. “Put God first, stay healthy, and just put myself in the best situation possible in order to be successful over in the States, and just go from there.”
After finishing off an eventful freshman season with the Cape Breton Capers (Nova Scotia) in 2012 — where we saw the 6’5″ guard earn CIS All-Rookie Team honours and help lead Cape Breton to a 21-1 record, good for first place in the AUS and an eventual (AUS) championship — Keith is trying his hand south of the border at Kilgore Junior College in Texas – a school that bred both Marcus Thornton and Francisco Elson into eventual NBA players.
The 21 year old sophomore from Brampton, Ontario, averaged 17.3 points per game with the Capers in the 2012 season (he sat out last year due to eligibility reasons) and hopes to bring a similar type of impact with the Kilgore Rangers. Although his time in Texas will be short-lived it’ll be sufficient preparation for his transition to NCAA Division I basketball- a goal that, in his mind, is a forgone conclusion.
“I plan on playing Junior College for one year and then after the I’ll be going straight to division one,” said Keith. “It’ll be a great experience for me, no doubt.”
Canadian basketball players generally make the shift to the United States scene at an early age (9th or 10th grade), which, because of how young they are, makes the changeover somewhat tedious . For Keith, however, who’s 21 years old and has experienced playing at the highest level in Canada, the transition will be seamless. He won’t have to endure the plight of fitting in due to his uninhibited disposition and his willingness to adjust to any situation (whether on or off the court).
In terms of his overall play, the former Bounce AAU alum presents a heap of matchup issues for opposing guards. Although only 6’5″ — a slightly smaller two-guard by pro standards — Keith is explosive in the open floor and has the ability to handle the ball and also govern point-guard duties when the need arises. He’s lightening quick off the dribble and swift in the transition game and his long arms are condusive to both finishing around the rim and bothering perimeter shots – a favourable component to have against taller guards.
In regards to his outside game, Keith is somewhat of a streaky shooter. Although he can get it going from beyond the arc, he has a tendency to fall in love with the trey ball. It’s one of those diminutive flaws that – with proper tutelage and an established system – can be worked on and fixed. He has a solid inside-outside game but might be better served by getting into the paint for better opportunities. There shouldn’t be any problem with Keith’s production level this season with the Rangers, insofar as he buys into the coaching staff’s system and does what he’s asked to do. By nature, everything else will follow.
The biggest question mark for the former Caper, however, is figuring out his natural position which, at the collegiate level, isn’t much of an issue; even in the pro’s – or more specifically, the NBA – where the league has become increasingly smaller in size relative to the past- there are countless combo guards who, like Keith, don’t have a natural position but have still managed to find their niche in the league (e.g., Lou Williams, Eric Bledsoe, Jodie Meeks, Randy Foye and so on).
Keith is, by all intents and purposes, a shooting guard — although, as mentioned earlier, he does posses the versatility to play the point guard position when necessary. He has a score first mentality – like most two guards do – but his height at 6,5″ gives him a slight disadvantage on both ends of the floor against opposing shooting guards; he has long arms, but not long enough to compensate for his physical deficiencies. He’s added some strength this off-season but needs to continue getting stronger if he’s to go against bigger two-guards.
The great thing about Keith’s situation, though, is the room (and time) for improvement. He can increase his overall strength; he can improve his quickness and agility through sufficient training; and he can learn to become a better, more cerebral basketball player through time on the court – something that tends to come with age and experience. So long as he continues working hard and focusing on areas of weakness, there’s no doubt that the Brampton native will have a successful year in Texas.
“I mean, my top goal is to play professional basketball. One day play in the NBA,” said Keith. “I have the skills, the body, the talent and the mindset, and now I’m being put in the right situation. I’m just going to take my blessings one by one and go from there.”
All in all, Keith possesses the tools, talent and, most importantly, the confidence to succeed. It’s just about him staying focused and putting it all together- something that his close friend and personal advisor, Everard Miller, says should be no issue so long as he continues fostering a strong work ethic:
“The skill level he’s at right now is from staying determined and being in the gym and working on his game day in and day out; with the right coaching and leadership, I think the sky is the limit for him, [there’s] no doubt in my mind.”
As far as his outlook on Canada basketball and its unprecedented evolution in the past ten years, Keith has nothing but positive words to say about the nation that raised him.
“Canada basketball has actually grown a lot from ten years ago. A lot of kids are starting to break open the doors more, like Andrew Wiggins, [former AAU teammate) Anthony Bennett and Tyler Ennis. These guys are really opening up to the world that Canada basketball is actually really good. There’s a lot of talent over here, it’s all about exposure. Those kids have shown the world that we do have talent as good as the United States. We’ve improved a lot in the last few years and we’re going to continue to improve. I’m certain of it.”
Considering the ample amount of time and effort Keith puts into the game of basketball, it won’t be very long before kids look at him in the same light as guys like Wiggins, Bennett and Ennis.
In other words, expect Keith to be making headlines fairly soon.
Written by Jaspreet Grewal
Photos Courtesy of Reel Motion Photography