Nebraska’s 2022 center recruit saved his most dominant performance for the game that mattered most.
Blaise Keita — a 6-foot-10, 235-pounder who’s still in junior college for another season — delivered Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College a national title Saturday night when he scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Coffeyville’s 108-99 win over Cowley in the NJCAA national title game.
Keita hit 13 of 16 shots on a variety of low post moves Cowley couldn’t stop. He fouled out as Coffeyville held off a late rally from Cowley. The game came on top of a double-double in the Final Four win, when Keita had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
How’d the native of Mali pick NU? The Huskers beat most programs to the punch after Keita completed a postgraduate year at Wichita’s famed Sunrise Christian Academy but failed to academically qualify for the NCAA. Nebraska outdueled Minnesota — another squad that recruited Keita early — before other teams like Baylor and Kansas made significant inroads.
“If coaches could have gone out and recruited without COVID, every guy in the country would have been on Blaise,” said Coffeyville assistant coach Kyle Campbell in February, when Keita committed. “It’s just been a different year with the COVID deal. The guys who get out there and work it, and watch a lot of film, can find out about guys that a lot of people just don’t know about yet.”
For the season, Keita averaged 10 points per game, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
“He has a good feel and knows how to play,” Campbell said. “We spent a lot of time recruiting him last year, knowing he wasn’t a qualifier, and he’s been everything as advertised, and he’s only getting better. If he keeps getting stronger and putting on weight, he’s got a chance to be pretty special.”
Keita can sign with Nebraska this fall in the early signing period. By the time he joins NU’s program next summer, the Huskers will have a better idea if current starting center Derrick Walker — a fifth-year junior in 2021-22 — will choose to be a sixth-year “super senior.” NU will have two more posts — Eduardo Andre and Oleg Kojenets, both freshmen in 2021-22 — in the mix, as well, and a versatile big man, 6-9 Wilhelm Breidenbach, who can play a variety of positions.