Syracuse Orange junior center Baye Keita has become known over his time with the team as being a defense-only option. The notion surrounding his has become, "He'll get you a couple blocks, a few rebounds, but don't expect any points."
But early on this season, Keita has shown that when he grabs an offensive rebound, he wants to put that ball in the basket, instead of taking the opportunity away from himself.
"Like coach taught me, I know we have the offense...but when you get the ball just go and take your time and score," said Keita. "I think that was the one thing that I've been focusing on was just like helping the team offensively than defensively."
Even if he is not the one who has the ball, Keita has been consciously working to aid his teammates in making sure they are successful on offense. "Sometimes I don't get the ball, but just set a good screen, get somebody else open because...it's like a team sport," Keita expressed. "Like you have five people and just have to depend on each one, every one of them. That was just a big thing."
Keita knows that without his teammates, his game is affected. He also has seen their want to give him an opportunity an offense. "Me depending on Brandon [Triche] every time I was gonna get the ball, Mike [Carter-Williams] every time, C.J. [Fair]...they've come up and they're gonna throw the ball to me, so I think that was a big thing," Keita stated.
At the same time, Keita has seen how Syracuse's success away from the basket opens up the offense more, and he is looking for his teammates as well. "I can be able to find Trevor [Cooney] or Mike or James [Southerland] to make a shot," said Keita. "And [Georgetown], they knew that James was gonna be shooting, so everybody was just pressuring him. So we were just finding somebody else to score."
More than in any other game this season, the Orange leaned on Keita to produce in their Big East Conference Tournament final four match-up with the Georgetown Hoyas. "[Versus Georgetown] they needed me," Keita remarked. "[That night] was just one of the nights I was just big on the offense and tomorrow I might be just labeled off, who knows. Rock (Rakeem Christmas) might be able to play tomorrow more or DaJuan [Coleman], so I think that just every night is just gonna be a different night. We just play hard every single time and just we go out and give everything we have."
Keita finished the game tied with Southerland and Triche as the team's highest scorer, with 13 points. More than half of those points came from the foul line, where Keita made 100% of his attempts, going 7-for-7. The rest of the Orange made six of 12.
Add in his one-handed putback off the glass in the seocnd half, followed by another cleanup make at the rim in overtime, and it is no secret that without Keita, Syracuse would have gone 0-for-3 in their final Big East season with the rival Hoyas.
This win in Round Three of the season series between Syracuse and Georgetown is special for Keita. "It means a lot," Keita shared. "They beat us two times in the regular season. [This] was the night to make a statement...really to show people that we have a good team and can beat them. So I think tonight was the night to make a statement."
Going 3-for-4 from the field and 7-for-7 from the charity stripe, while grabbing eight rebounds, six offensively, to go with an assist and a block. It seems fair to say that Keita made a statement. In fact, he put it in bold and underlined it.