Keller Beginning To Make Contribution

Major college basketball is played at an advanced level. High school and junior college players often have adjustment problems playing with and against bigger, stronger, more athletic players. The college game is highly complex, so a junior college transfer like Dominique Keller takes awhile to catch on. Fortunately for Illinois, Keller is beginning to figure things out.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber discusses the difficult transition Dominique Keller has had to endure.

"Physically, Dominique is not like a freshman, but basketball is different from junior college to the Division 1 level. Consistency is not always there. It usually takes junior college guys half the season, some a little longer. There's a rare guy that can just step up and fit in and play at a high level right away."

Keller agrees with that assessment.

"It was a process for me on defense and offense. The transition was pretty difficult, but I think I've got it right now. I just have to get better in practice and hopefully I will look better in the next game."

The 6'-7", 225 pounder agreed to serve as a post defender and rebounder when he signed with the Illini. He was needed to add muscle and aggressiveness to a group of bigs led by string beans Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. Keller is willing to adapt his game to the needs of the team.

"I pretty much go up against bigger guys all the time. I know I'm an undersized post player as I can play 3, 4 or 5. So I try to box them out and use my strength and quickness. If I get a big guy on me, I try to square up and go by him. If I get a guy my height, I try to post up and throw up a hook or something. It's just all about being smart and playing basketball."

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is Dominique's game in a nutshell. Weber appreciated Keller's game against Ohio State recently and his willingness to wrestle with the Buckeyes' 7 foot future pro B. J. Mullens.

"Besides the scoring, the good thing the other day was that he fought Mullens in the post. He almost had no choice because Mullens was so big. He realized if he didn't fight him, Mullens was gonna stick him under the hoop and dunk on him. So if he can learn from that and be more physical, fight in the post and rebound, then the scoring will come."

Dominique's role may be to play defense and rebound, but it is obvious he has a hunger to score as well. His shot is often unorthodox, but it can be effective against bigger players.

"Dominique has given us energy, and we're getting him more and more minutes," Weber states. "He still does some crazy things. He plays hard, and he's gonna get shots up. I don't know if they're easy baskets, but he gets some hoops in the paint."

Keller has a knack for getting unusual shots off against bigger foes, and one wonders how they find the bottom of the bucket. But he practices them regularly.

"A lot of the guys I go against are a lot larger or more athletic than I am. I've got to change the angle of my shot. I get that every day from guys like Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Stan (Simpson), so I try to get my shot off as quick as I can. I work on some things, but most of the shots I just try to avoid my shot blocker. Hopefully, it will just go in."

Illini senior guard and captain Chester Frazier has given names to some of Dominique's shots.

"They call a hook shot The Korean because you just threw up a little hook shot. I've got one up-and-under move they call Old School Rock because it's like an old school player. Chester makes up names every day, so I can't really tell you a lot of them. I've got 12 of them though."

Keller still struggles with rebounding, and Weber is working with him to use his athleticism to help Illinois improve its weakest aspect. But Weber is cautiously optimistic Dominique will continue to improve.

"He had a positive game the other day, now where does it go from there."

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