Iowa has Luka Garza, national player of the year candidate. Illinois enjoys Kofi Cockburn. Michigan found Hunter Dickinson. Wisconsin developed Nate Reuvers, as did Ohio State with E.J. Liddell. Purdue seems to grow them on trees. Big Ten big men are a near-must to achieve success within the toughest basketball league in America.
Husker Head Coach Fred Hoiberg just got one step closer to the big boys.
Blaise Keita, a 6-foot-10, 235-pounder originally from Mali, plays for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. On Monday, Keita committed to play for Hoiberg at Nebraska. He will remain at Coffeyville through the spring of 2022, at which point he can graduate and move to Lincoln with three years of eligibility, since this season won’t count against him due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nebraska was not alone in chasing Keita this cycle - the 2nd-ranked Baylor Bears were showing strong interest, as well as Tennessee, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State. Fellow Big Ten squad Minnesota and Richard Pitino were perhaps the closest competitor to NU. But Hoiberg and ace recruiter Matt Abdelmassih won out with their vision.
Current frontcourt players for Nebraska include Derrick Walker, Yvan Ouedraogo, and Eduardo Andre. While Walker is more developed, Ouedraogo and Andre are projects. Keita, with JUCO and international experience, could be more B1G-ready upon arrival.
Keita averages 12.1 points on 56% shooting, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 24 minutes per game this season. Also of note, he is a 75% free-throw shooter through eight junior college games.
In 2017, Keita was a member of the Under-19 Mali national team that competed in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. He averaged a double-double over seven games with 10.2 points and 10.3 boards per contest.
Possessing a 7-foot-1 wingspan is a welcome trait for Fred Hoiberg, who relies on his forwards and centers to be capable defenders on the block. They also need to be able to run the floor in transition, something Keita can do today.
Before he becomes a Husker, Keita will aim to put on more weight, continue to hone his post moves, and stretch his range out to the three-point line. If he is expected to be a part of a contending team in the Big Ten, those skills will be a pre-requisite when going up against the likes of Garza, Cockburn, or Dickerson in his future.
Nebraska, with Keita’s commitment, has four available scholarships for their 2022 roster.