Basketball matters in Keller.
Really, it’s mattered for as long as boys head coach Randall Durant has been there. That’s nine seasons. But fans and high school basketball followers are only now recognizing the reality.
Keller and boys basketball have never been a marriage of words. But when the Indians (22-8) met state power DeSoto in the Class 6A Region I area round Monday, it marked the third consecutive year that Keller had won at least one playoff game. Keller has been to the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons. Keller has averaged 18 wins per season but has surpassed 20 wins in each of the last three. Durant carries a 160-122 record in in nine years and just shared the District 5-6A championship with Denton Guyer.
“You really can’t control what other people think,” Durant said. “But when you put a good product on the floor and you knock off other good people, you raise your visibility.”
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This is a very good program. Keller fans have Wise County to thank. Because Durant and his family wanted to build a house away from the craziness of the Metroplex, they found a piece of land near Decatur. At the time, the 49-year-old Durant enjoyed a solid career at Hurst L.D. Bell.
But the commute into the Mid-Cities presented its own set of frustrations. Keller’s job opened. Durant interviewed. Now, he has a program a lot of coaches would love to have. He presented the case to the Keller administration that he could build the kind of program that Greg Gober had put together when he was at Colleyville Heritage.
“That was the goal I was trying to achieve,” Durant said. “No. 1, I liked the types of kids that were there. There wasn’t a superstar. But we weren’t going to be successful if weren’t going to be able to get the kids to buy in. They did.”
Durant’s friends questioned the logic behind the move. Keller basketball rarely hit the radar. In the previous eight years before his arrival, it had been to the postseason once. Durant would be lucky if he experienced similar results. Those doubting words soon lost their sting, though.
To build anything, there will be a struggle. First, players have to believe they can compete. Second, they have to compete to live up to the expectations. Third, they have to see the results in wins and playoff appearances.
After the first couple of uphill seasons, the Indians have transitioned to where they are expected to be a part of the playoffs when postseason talks start. Those words resonate.
“You have to believe that you can win in the playoffs,” Durant said. “That’s hard to get them to believe. But once you do, it gets better. I thought we had a chance to do this again with the guys coming back. But we had a lot of injuries to get through. I still didn’t think we had played our best basketball to this point.”
This team featured three dynamic players in junior 6-5 forward Nolan Taylor, 6-3 sophomore guard R.J. Nembhard – called the most physically gifted player Durant has ever coached – and senior 6-3 guard Brock Anders. Those three could be the turning point as to how this program sustains over time and perhaps breaks the barrier and finds a way to advance to the state tournament in Austin.
Younger basketball players watching those three see the skill and talent and probably want to do the same thing in future years. Success begets success.
Regardless of Monday’s playoff result, December through February is no longer considered a bridge to get to the spring football season.
“We’ve had some good kids, but we’ve never had the big move in,” Durant said. “We just take the ones who walk through the door. Our goal is to make them as good as they can be.”