2003 Spotlight: Keith Wooden

Keith Wooden emerged from the summer scene as a top-flight junior forward. The Lawrence, Kan., product was an honorable mention all-conference player last season but more will be expected of him during his junior year.

Kansas Has Ties To Wooden

Last year, Keith Wooden averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds for Jack Schreiner at Lawrence (KS) Free State. Good numbers, but certainly not eye-popping. "He wasn't even the best player on our team but part of that is because he was a sophomore," Schreiner said. "He just turned 16 three weeks ago."

At the Nike All-American Camp, Wooden was a big hit. He wasn't bad at Spiece either when he excelled for K.C. Hoopservice. His coach hopes he follows in the footsteps of Wayne Simien, a native of Leavenworth, who is going to have a big year for the Jayhawks this season.

"We use Wayne Simien as our guide," Schreiner said. "We think as a sophomore, Keith probably had more skills but Wayne is just an incredible worker and made himself much better. Keith's a great kid. I think Wayne wants to go into the gym and work hard every time. Keith wants to go into the gym but he's got to work as hard."

During the fall evaluation period, Nebraska, Purdue, Kansas and Wichita State sent assistant coaches to watch him play. Kentucky, Louisville, New Mexico, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas State, Iowa State, Colorado State and Arkansas want to take in a high school game.

OK, now for the obvious. How is kid from Lawrence going to go anywhere but Kansas. "That's what every coach asks," Schreiner says. "One of his best friends is the son of one of the Kansas assistant coaches. I know for a fact that Keith has not made any decisions. He's said numerous times that he'd like to go somewhere else. But, if KU decides this is a kid they want, that's a whole different story."

Right now, Kansas does not have an offer on the table. KU's assistant Neil Dougherty's son, Neil, Jr., is the point guard at Free State. "He's a great leader and gets it from his dad. You can just see that he wants to win so bad that he's not afraid to tell other kids and he becomes a coach on the floor." Like father, like son or so it seems.

Schreiner sees Wooden as a combination forward with a fine outside game. The 6-8, 215 pounder has the task of leading Free State deeper into the playoffs this season. Last year, Free State knocked off a Simien's Leavenworth team to qualify for the state tournament, but the Kansas power forward was injured and didn't play.

"We're hoping for a turnaround year," Schreiner said. "The school's only been in existence for five years." So far, Schreiner has gotten two post-season bids only to exit in the first round each time. It'll be Wooden's job to make sure that doesn't happen this season.

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