Koat Keat would do whatever it took help the Crean Lutheran boys basketball team win.
He was a fierce rebounder at both ends of the court. He could score inside, and he could shoot … maybe not enough.
“He’s so unselfish,” said Crean coach Nate Klitzing. “I’d tell him, ‘Hey, KK, you’ve got to take over this game. You’ve got to take that open shot.’ ”
Keat took enough shots, open or not, and made them often enough to be the Orange County player of the year for the 2021-22 season.
Keat, a 6-10 senior, averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks a game for the Saints, who finished 25-7 overall and 10-0 in the Empire League.
Crean Lutheran’s schedule was among the most challenging in Southern California. Three of the Saints’ losses were Centennial of Corona, the CIF Southern Section Open Division and CIF State Open Division champion.
The Saints advanced to the CIF Southern California Regional Division I final. They finished No. 8 in the final state rankings by CalHiSports.com, the highest finish for an Orange County team this season.
Keat was the CIF-SS Division 2A player of the year as a junior and this season he was one of 11 players selected to the elite All-CIF Open Division team.
Keat was Crean Lutheran’s team MVP, was all-tournament in the Damien Classic and the Tarkanian Classic. He scored 17 points with 11 rebounds in a loss to Damien in the regional final.
Keat did all of that with the biggest smile one could see on a high school basketball court, and for him, the highlights were his friendships.
“I’ll always remember my teammates and all the good times we had together,” Keat said. “We went far this season, not as far as we wanted to, but further than some teams.”
Keat, who signed with UC Santa Barbara, is a native of South Sudan’s capital city of Juba. He has lived locally with the family of Crean Lutheran teammate Trevor Do.
“They’ve been so nice to me,” Keat said of the Do family. “I love them so much.”
Keat early in the season was still recovering from surgery to repair torn knee cartilage. Once he got healthy …
“KK improved his shooting a lot this year,” Klitzing said. “His rebounding is as good as it gets in high school basketball.”
Keat’s basketball intellect improved, too.
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“I got better about my thinking, about how to read a game,” Keat said. “Basketball is all about decision-making, and my confidence there got better. I will keep getting better moving forward.”
Keat admitted that, yes, he needs to think shoot-first more often.
“That’s what I’ve been working on,” he said. “When I keep getting those chances to do it, just shoot the ball.”