Keegan: The missing piece to puzzle
He’s been the missing link.
Joel Keegan has been the missing piece that has helped South Tahoe High bridge the gap between a series of frustrating seasons and the promised land of postseason basketball.
The 6-foot-8 senior transfer from Folsom has given the Vikings the inside presence to complement the perimeter games of seniors Jared Wood and Conor Freeman.
“He’s very willing to fit in. No ego. As a coach you can’t ask for a better kid to coach,” said South Tahoe sixth-year coach Derek Allister. “If somebody walked in our gym today or even back when he first got here or during the summer and said, ‘OK, who is the new guy?’ Nobody would have picked out Joel necessarily because he’s so much like our guys.
“He’s one of the more likable, upbeat, positive people that you’d ever want to be around.”
Keegan has been a consistent presence around the basket, averaging 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. More importantly, he has helped the Vikings compile a 15-10 overall record and their first regional playoff berth since 2000.
How Keegan fell into the Vikings’ hands was due to a combination of what STHS had to offer and what Folsom wasn’t providing him.
“It just wasn’t really working out down there. I wasn’t having any fun playing basketball,” Keegan said. “I knew it was possible to go on to play for a four-year school, but I knew it wasn’t possible down at Folsom. I thought I had the talent that I could play at that level, but I didn’t think anything was going to happen playing at Folsom High.”
Keegan played on the Folsom High varsity team the two previous seasons but was asked to do little more than rebound.
“Down at Folsom I just had to stay in the post. I couldn’t really play basketball,” Keegan said. “Here, (coach) lets me dribble and shoot from outside and really play basketball.
“Derek has helped me go out of my comfort zone and given me a lot of confidence in my jumper and dribbling.”
Allister permitted Keegan to sample his program by playing briefly with his summer club team. Keegan played in one summer tournament and went through several practices. Keegan gave no assurances that he’d become part of the team in November.
As it turned out, Keegan didn’t join the Vikings until the fifth game of the season – a 47-41 home defeat to Bishop Manogue.
“It took me a long time to make the decision to come up here, and I’m so happy I did,” Keegan said. “I’m having the time of my life here. I’m just happy to help.”
Keegan said the transition from school to school has been smooth because of his teammates and the student body.
“All of the kids at school have been really nice to me,” he said.
Wood, a four-year varsity player, didn’t hold back in stressing how important the addition of Keegan has been.
“There’s no one better that we could have just put in with us,” Wood said. “It’s been unbelievable. I think he’s been the missing piece for us, that put us over the top and into the playoffs. He just fit in perfectly.”
In recent years, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association has clamped down on its transfer rules, particularly foreign exchange students. But Keegan’s change of schools before his senior year was never an issue. He moved to this area with his parents, a change-of-address condition that the NIAA demands.
“They had a house and they are living up here. That’s pretty much cut and dry,” Allister said. “What Bishop Gorman did is they had foreign kids just coming in and living with people.”
Allister, however, regrets not getting Keegan sooner in order to help his post man secure a spot at the next level.
“He has size and you have to project. He’s 17 now. What is he gonna be like four years from now?” Allister said. “If I could have had him a year ago, he’d be getting some good looks.”
Pacific, U.C. Davis, Chico State, Southern Oregon and a slew of junior colleges are considering taking a chance on Keegan’s potential..
For now, Keegan can feel good that his last-minute transfer has helped restore South Tahoe’s rich basketball tradition and made his senior year of high school unforgettable.
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