HawkeyeReport - Rivals150 junior Yaya Keita making big strides
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Rivals150 junior Yaya Keita making big strides

Yaya Keita
Yaya Keita

HIGHLAND, Ill. -- Since moving to the United States from his home in Mali to start his high school years, everything has been an adjustment for Rivals150 junior big man Yaya Keita.But, he's found a home at St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet and is thriving on and off the court.

A bruising and strong 6-foot-9 big man, Keita is a beast on the floor but a fun loving and engaging individual off of it. He discussed adjusting to a new place and a new language.

“It’s all different from my country to here," Keita told Rivals.com. "Jumping from Mali and coming to the United States the climate is a big, huge difference. I had never been in snow before and when I came over an saw it I was like woah, I’m not going out. That was a big challenge to be able to handle the weather and the cold.

"After that it was the language part of it. From where I started to today I think I’ve done a pretty good job. When I came over I only knew three words because back home in Mali we use French.”

On the basketball court, Keita has endeared himself to teammates and to coaches. He has earned offers from Iowa, Missouri State, Saint Louis and Southern Illinois to go with interest from Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, West Virginia and many others. It's easy to see why coaches would appreciate his hard work and style even though he's only been focused on hoops for three years.

“At home I was a soccer player," said Keita. "Then when I came over I got changed to be a basketball player and it was fun so I gave myself to it. My freshman year I did play soccer for DeSmet, I played forward and scored 15 goals. But I stopped after that and I’ve just focused on basketball because I love it.

“Anytime when I step on the floor I have to be in that aggressive mood and make my teammates that way. Even if it’s not going for me I have to get them going. I like to take leadership and talk to my guys all the time. If I’m not scoring I don’t worry about it, I go for every rebound because I know that’s going to help. I love my teammates and I want them to love me too.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Not surprisingly, Keita has been to nearby SLU and he has also taken an unofficial visit to Kansas. He'd like to set up trips with Iowa and Michigan and discussed those four programs.

Iowa: "I think Iowa is very excited for me to come visit and they’ve been watching me since my sophomore year. Even when I was hurt they didn’t give up and not offer me. They offered me when I was not playing so that surprised me a lot. Coach saw me, I couldn’t even run and all I could do was shoot free throws and he said ok, I want to offer you. I’m like “wow, this means a lot so I want to come back and show them that you offered me when I was hurt and now I’m back and I’m playing hard for you.”

Kansas: “Kansas it was pretty decent, I mean it was really cool. The coaches were nice, the campus was nice, the players were nice to me and after the game I got to go in the locker room to hear the coach speak. I got to talk to Bill Self and it was very cool. They've had all those NBA players and they are just starting to recruit me but (fans) treated me like I was already one of the NBA guys."

Michigan: “I’m just excited about where the program is. They have a new coach, Juwan Howard, and I like his personality. He played in the NBA and he played with one of basketball wise my favorite people to see in life, LeBron James. He got to play with him on the Miami Heat. Also his coaching and what he stands for is neat to me. I just want to visit and see.”

SLU: "It’s a very cool place and I like (Travis Ford). I had some losses in my family last year, I lost my mom on Christmas day and it was pretty tough and I was injured and I had lost my dad too. It was three hard things in one year and I was kind of fighting through it and the SLU coaches wanted to see how I was doing and lift me up. It meant a lot to me and since then I’ve seen them as a nice people.”

WHAT'S NEXT?

Keita is still learning each day how to be a better player and adjusting to a new culture. His teammates and coaches love being around him and he's experiencing as much as possible. That spills over into his recruitment where Keita will take his time and do all he can to learn as much about the schools involved as he can.

Because of that, there's no rush to do anything.

"So now I’m just kind of waiting and seeing," said Keita. "Everything is new to me. This college stuff I don’t know much about it and I’m just kind of focused and playing hard. When the time comes to sign with a school I will do it, but for now I’m just kind of thinking it over.”