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Keith Bogans

March 31, 2003 Columns No Comments



Profiling Kentucky’s Keith Bogans

by Phil Kasiecki

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not for the senior leader on the team that finished the regular season with 23 straight victories and was a clear favorite heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Keith Bogans didn’t end his college career the way he wanted to, as Kentucky lost to Marquette in the Midwest regional final on Saturday by a score of 83-69. Not only did the Wildcats not finish the season as planned, especially after they passed on cutting down the nets after winning the SEC Championship, but Bogans struggled mightily with a high ankle sprain sustained in their win over Wisconsin on Thursday.

Bogans had 15 points on 4-11 shooting, but didn’t look like he belonged on the court at times. An excellent athlete, he didn’t have the quickness, explosiveness, or body control he normally has, and lacking that, he was also an uncharacteristic liability on defense as Dwyane Wade and the Golden Eagles torched the Wildcat defense. They shot 56% against a Kentucky team that entered the game allowing opponents to shoot just over 41% on the season and just over 39% in the first three NCAA Tournament wins.

Despite the ending, Bogans is a great testament to a kid staying in school, improving his game and growing up as a basketball player. While many want kids to stay in school just for the sake of it, Bogans would have made a mistake had he not withdrawn from the NBA Draft two years ago. Despite averaging 17 points per game and shooting 36% on three-pointers, he likely would not have been drafted. At 6’5″, he is more of a small forward than a shooting guard, and he did not shoot the ball consistently well, especially as he too often settled for three-point shots instead of trying to go to the basket.

Last year was a disappointing junior season, as he struggled to shoot the ball amidst a season of turmoil in the program. He scored 11.6 points per game, but shot under 40% from the field and 31.5% on three-pointers, numbers that would make one initially wonder what he was doing declaring for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year. On the plus side, he reversed the trend he had with assists and turnovers, recording a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio.

Head coach Tubby Smith challenged Bogans to be the senior leader of this team entering this season, and the native of Alexandria, Virginia, one of many pupils of legendary coach Morgan Wootten, responded emphatically. He was the SEC Player of the Year and an All-American as the Wildcats’ leading scorer and led in steals, but he did much more than just put up numbers. He scored his points in the flow of the offense, played solid defense, handled the ball when needed, and he scored in more ways than the jump shot, which was a problem in his early years since he too often settled for three-point shots.

Bogans is now a better NBA prospect than he was when he declared for the draft two years ago. He’s not exactly lottery pick material, but he should be drafted and now has what it takes to hang around the league for a while. He’s a good athlete and a strong wing player whose jump shot has improved as well as his shot selection, has become a better scorer and knows how to use his talents, and his overall improvement shows that he can get better and is very coachable.

He tried to tough it out on Saturday like any competitor would, and perhaps a little too much. At times he tried using his hands to fend off a defender on the drive, and he couldn’t stop his momentum a few times and nearly got called for charges. He didn’t have his legs under him and his shooting suffered, all to the point where Tubby Smith might have been better off sitting Bogans and trying to win with a healthy body out there like Antwain Barbour.

Bogans finishes his career as the fourth all-time leading scorer at Kentucky with 1,923 points, which is no small feat at the school with a great tradition. Along the way this season, he passed players such as Tony Delk and Jamal Mashburn, as well as former teammate Tayshaun Prince. He also finishes second in career three-pointers made and first in three-point attempts.

Keith Bogans made his mark on Kentucky basketball, despite not ending the way he and others would have it. He led a great season, one where we saw that Kentucky is doing just fine despite recent turmoil, and he goes out a winner regardless of the result of his last game.

     

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