Kyle Keller was introduced to Stephen F. Austin Friday as their 12th head men's basketball coach. Keller is coming off a Sweet 16 appearance with Texas A&M as an assistant coach.
Keller said if SFA athletic director Robert Hill didn't call him for the job, Keller would have reached out to Hill. The new head coach is adamant that there will be no steps moving backward or complacency. It's all about building what is now Keller's basketball program.
“That’s exactly how I feel. Let's beat Villanova. Let's all get together and beat Villanova,” said Keller.
Brad Underwood may have left but the ‘Big Dream’ mentality is here to stay. It's now in Keller’s hands to keep SFA basketball on the rise.
His saying is ‘Drive to Five’ meaning he's already eyeing a fifth trip to the NCAA tournament for the program.
“Winning is very important in my life because nothing makes me more happy than winning,” said Keller. “The kids want to win, the administration wants to win and give you the financial support to win. It was a no-brainer for me. I would have crawled to Nacogdoches.”
“He means business. He gets after it. He's a hard-working guy,” said sophomore guard Ty Charles. “I don't have any doubts. I think he'll do a great job. We're going to work hard regardless for him and when you work hard, good things come out.”
Some aspects of Lumberjack basketball won't be changing with Keller and his coaching philosophy, starting with the defense.
“Defensively, he wants to play the same way. Most of us were pretty happy about that because we like our defense,” said junior guard Dallas Cameron.
“Defensively we're not changing one bit because they had the highest turnover percentage rate in the country defensively and I don't want that to change,” said Keller. “That to me makes that talent gap shrink which I think is very important because we're not going to have McDonald All-Americans like West Virginia or Notre Dame.”
Keller said offensively he wants to shake things up with a faster style of play including more ball screens and an unselfish approach to the game.
“Teams I've been associated with have had high assist rates. It will be fun. Fans will love to watch our team play, I promise you that. It’s easier to recruit too. They will enjoy it,” said Keller.
Recruits will be vital for Keller to keep SFA established as a household name come tournament time.
He's a Dallas native and with a coaching stint at Tyler Junior College, he's taking a Donald Trump approach on fencing in talent.
“We're going to get on the map and put about 200 miles around us. We're going to put a fence around them and we're going to get the best players in 200 miles. We’re going to make it hard for people to say no to us,” said Keller. “We're going to identify the best players when they're young before people in the SEC, Big 12 can figure out who they are. When they're young, we're going to get them here. To me, you have to take care of home first in recruiting.”
At this point, Keller has made no official coaching changes. At his introductory conference, he mentioned senior Trey Pinkney will be a graduate assistant next year. Keller also said Assistant Coach Erik Pastrana told him he wants to stay in Nacogdoches. Stephen Gentry is the last assistant who attended the conference but was not sitting with the team.
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