Centering in on Baye Keita

Syracuse center Keita shows improvement on the offensive end in the team's home-opener. He spoke with about getting better and which coach has played a big role in his growth.

Baye Keita is one of three players involved in a rotation for the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team this season, with teammates Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman.

Keita, now in his junior season with the Orange, has spent his time on the floor tipping strongly to the defensive side.

In Syracuse's home-opener against Wagner, Keita showed that he can tip the other way also, scoring 15 points, all in the second half. "I've been working on my offense since last year, but last year we have a lot of guys that could score, so they really don't need me to score [last year]," Keita said of his quiet offensive presence that has started to become louder. He was six-for-six from the field versus the Seahawks, scoing underneath, courtesy of feeds from his teammates, including Michael Carter-Williams.

"I know every time you [are] open, Mike (Carter-Williams) [is] gonna…give you the ball, so every time I'm in there I'm ready to get the ball," Keita shared, showing improvement in catching passes that have led to scores.

Keita attributes his positive play to the time spent leading up to game-time. "Everything can start with practice because I work with them all the time in practice so they know where I [am] and I know when I get the ball where there gonna be, so I think that's one of the key things that will help us," Keita expressed.

Along with playing well close to the rim, Keita went three-for-four from the charity stripe, typically uncharacteristic for a center. "I've been shooting good in free throws, like since the freshman year so, with Hop (Coach Mike Hopkins), everything is just like practice…shoot free throws, go through the same motion," said Keita.

"He [has] done a lot," Keita elaborated on Hopkins. "Every day at practice, he just push me beyond my limits, so I think that's [why I] go hard every day…he's a great coach."

Keita and Hopkins have each been going through a transition simultaneously, something the junior center believes is benefiting them both. "He used to be the guard coach, so making the transition was kinda hard for him," said Keita of Hopkins. "And for me too because he just tried to do whatever he was doing with the guards, so throughout the year, I learn a lot from him and he learn a lot from me. I think that's the only thing I can ask from a coach."

With the center position not solely belonging to any Orange player, Keita's continued growth can not only potentially keep him on the court longer, but more importantly provides Syracuse with an inside presence not only on the defensive side, but on the offensive end, too.

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