Dominique Keller, the 2008 JUCO power forward, has one more science class to finish up before he can officially head off to division one ball. No doubt, his days in Texas are numbered. "I'm almost done. I like it here in Texas, but I can't wait to get up there with my boys," Keller said.
Keller is a 6'7" forward with a lot of skills, determination, and heart. He also has a strong desire to show people what he can do on the court. "I don't like to be labeled; it makes me mad when people do that. A lot of players don't pay much attention to what other people have to say. I care because I want to prove those doubters wrong. I want to show them I'm not just some 'other' JUCO player that's coming to a big time D-I program to just fit in. We plan to do some good things when I get there," said Keller.
"I'm very glad that I picked Illinois. I talk to Coach Weber and Coach Howard probably everyday, well, maybe not Sunday's. But the other six days I do. We talk about a lot of things: if I'm taking care of my business in the classroom, basketball, or just life in general. Then I'll talk to my boys, Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. They tell me what they're doing to work on their games, and what things will be like for us as a team when I get to campus. Also, we talk a little bit about how they're playing overseas right now, that they miss being home, but how they like it because they're playing basketball," Keller said.
Keller has studied up on the Illini and their system. He's done his homework researching next year's rosters and noticed the players that have left the program. "I know there's a spot open [in the post] at Illinois and I'm going there to take it. I know who left the team and what we need this year to put Illinois back on track. During my free time, when I'm not doing my homework, I'm working out, running, lifting weights, ball handlings drills, everything I think I'll need to be great when I get down there. I know it's a great group of guys and Coach Weber has done a good job with them. I see it like this, we will have some of the best guards in the country with Demerti, Jamar, and Alex. Teams will have to keep our backcourt in check because they're that good. So that means when they're double-teamed, it's going to be big that I step up, get open, and make plays," added Keller.
For those that don't know Keller, he's also a family man. Like most young men, taking care of mom is very important. "Before I make the trip to my new school, I will go see my mom. I want to make sure she's okay, that she doesn't need anything. I have a couple of family graduations I need to attend as well. She really doesn't like to travel much, so she's getting a satellite dish next year to watch the Big Ten Network. That way she will be able to see all my games, along with the ones on ESPN. She will make the trip to see me play in person a few times, I know, but it's hard for her," said Keller.
The group of Illini that take to the Assembly Hall floor next year will have a much different look than the 2007-08 Illini. Who actually starts and who will get the bulk of the minutes remains to be seen, but I can bet on this: if someone beats out Keller, then that person will have been very deserving. Keller clearly has the work ethic to prove all his doubters wrong and prove he belongs on the court at the D-I level. However, only time will tell if his hard work will pay off with results in the box score and in the win-loss column.