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Mathis Keita: Why I really like this signing

Mathis Keita will provide an excellent defensive presence off the bench.
Mathis Keita will provide an excellent defensive presence off the bench.

As Zach's previous post mentioned, I think a lot of Gonzaga fans have been a little taken aback by the recent commitment and apparent signing of Mathis Keita. With the additions of Marquise Carter and Keegan Hyland already in the 2010 class, most people probably assumed that if there were to be another commit, he would likely be a big. However, the signing of Mathis Keita makes a ton of sense to me for two specific reasons.

The first thing that jumps out to me is that this will be arguably the best defensive team Gonzaga has ever had. Outside of Elias Harris (who may in fact be more comfortable guarding an opposing SF), every other member of the starting five has the potential to be an excellent defender. Steven Gray is one of the better perimeter defenders in college basketball, Rob Sacre is a strong presence in the paint, and Meech Goodson does an excellent job of making his opponent work for tough shots. No matter who the fifth starter is ( I would expect it to be between Dower, Kong, and Arop), you have another long and athletic guy who can be excellent on the defensive end. Outside of the starting five, I expect to see a bench rotation consisting of Marquise Carter, Kelly Olynyk, Mathis Keita, Bol Kong, and Mangisto Arop (my assumption is that Keegan Hyland is a luxury prospect. If Bol doesn't make the improvement that he is capable of, then I think Hyland takes his spot in the rotation as a shooter off the bench.) With this group coming off the bench, the 2010 team will have very impressive length and athleticism that is capable of wearing down an opposing team.

Another excellent attribute that Keita brings to the table is his athleticism and speed in the open court. I fully anticipate that the 2010 Gonzaga team will play like the North Carolina team that won the National Championship in 2008. What this means is that I expect the team to run off both makes and misses, and truly push the tempo and utilize their depth against every opponent. Not only will Gonzaga have one of the more talented and experienced starting 5's in college basketball, but this group will also have the depth to wear teams down. The North Carolina team that won the National Championship featured nine guys that played over 10 minutes per game, with Larry Drew playing 9.6 minutes as a freshman. Interestingly, I envision Keita playing the same role that Drew played as a freshman, which was mainly as a guy who gave Ty Lawson a quick breather each game. I expect Keita to provide Steven Gray with a quick breather each game, while providing excellent energy and defensive intensity off the bench. By having Keita as an option off the bench, the coaching staff will be able to prevent the burnout and exhaustion that occurred with Matt Bouldin in the second half of the season.

I know that many people are worried about the low shooting percentage that Keita has. However, I expect a majority of Keita's scoring to occur on the fastbreak and at the rim, with his main impact being as a defensive stopper off the bench. As Keita develops and matures on the offensive end, I can't help but think about how talented the 2011/2012 team will be. I anticipate seeing this group in 2011/2012:

Freshman: Gary Bell Jr., Kyle Dranginis, Kyle Wiltjer

Sophomore: Keegan Hyland, Mathis Keita, Sam Dower

Junior: Mangisto Arop, Kelly Olynyk

Senior: Rob Sacre, Marquise Carter, Bol Kong, Demetri Goodson

Not only does Keita have no impact on 2011 recruiting (I personally think this might mean that Kevin Pangos becomes more of a luxury type recruit instead of a priority recruit), but he also has the experience and skill set to come in and make an impact as a freshman. He is not the point guard prospect that Carter is, and he isn't the shooter that Hyland is, but Keita certainly provides an excellent defensive option off the bench.