Playing the ultimate team game does not preclude boys basketball teams from having standout players, and Keller is mastering that kind of game plan.
No doubt, R.J. Nembhard is attracting the attention he’s due, but one-man teams tend to be flash-in-the-pan stories when the difficult district schedule and playoffs roll around.
Nembhard was the district’s MVP last season and has already signed to play at TCU next year. But before that move to Fort Worth happens, Keller expects to repeat as playoff contenders.
To make that a reality, the players surrounding the team’s star player have to do more than stand idly by and cheer on Nembhard.
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While Nembhard typically attracts double – and even triple – coverage, someone else has to be able to pull the trigger, run the offense, rebound and play defense.
Keller head coach Randall Durant has to feel pretty good about the Indians’ supporting cast.
Among them, Carson Hughes, Tyler Williams, Jared Bowman, Brady Boyd, Caden Keller and Jackson Hataway have helped Keller run to 12-1 heading into their district opener this week.
“Nobody wins alone,” Durant said. “Jordan didn’t. LeBron didn’t, Magic and Bird didn’t.”
Hughes is the team’s second-leading scorer and Bowman excels on the defensive end.
The ability for those two to perform is partly due to the pressure being put on Nembhard.
For Hughes, a junior guard, he enjoys the opportunity to be a teammate of other talent.
“It’s really cool getting to play with a D1 player,” Hughes said. “He deserves all the hype he gets. He opens up the court so that I can contribute and score. The pressure is off us and we get more and better looks at the basket.”
Nembhard is known to drive down the middle of the paint and that is an invitation for Hughes.
“When he drives, it collapses the defense and it leaves me open in the corner and the wing to knock it down,” Hughes said. He uses that open look to hit a high percentage of 3’s.
The advantages of a full team compliment is found on the defensive end of the court, as well.
Bowman, who doesn’t score often but “is the heart and soul of our team,” Durant said.
“He’s a defensive maniac. He plays harder than anybody. He throws his body around,” Durant added about Bowman.
Bowman, a senior, has learned to respect Nembhard’s ability over several years. The two have played basketball together since 4th grade, Bowman said.
“My role is to get a bunch of steals,” Bowman said.
Hughes agreed that the desire of teams to stay away from Nembhard funnels opportunities their way.
“He’s so athletic, people don’t like to go to his side,” Hughes said of Nembhard sitting in a zone defense. “It helps others get a steal and rebounds.”
The other Indians know, though, as good as Nembhard has been, it’s not a one-person team.
“You not only need others to contribute, but the pieces have to fit together,” Durant said. “You need good screeners, ball-handlers, rebounders, post defenders. You must have five guys willing to defend.”
That synchronicity is there for Keller.
“Even though he’s the best player, the reason we’re so good is chemistry,” Bowman said. “We like to play together and the ball moves so well. No one is selfish.”
Hughes echoed the key for the team’s success.
“We do work well as a team. We know he (Nembhard) can help us out to get the win,” Hughes said. “Everybody is happy with the way we’re playing and contributing.”