CMU’s Mighty Mite: Marcus Keene Leads The Nation In Scoring [Video]
A friend asked me if I wanted to head up to Mt. Pleasant to watch Central Michigan play Saturday. I immediately was interested because a 5-9 guard has been on fire for the Chippewas and everyone I know who loves college basketball said 'you gotta see this kid play'.
If you've never heard of Marcus Keene, don't feel bad. Before this season no one had. Undersized at 5-9, the talented shooter was ignored by most major college programs, but after transferring to Central from Youngstown State in Ohio, Keene has lit up the scoreboard, and is running away with the NCAA scoring title.
"Keenesanity" is what they call it in Mount Pleasant, and in Keene's hometown of San Antonio TX where the phrase was coined following a tournament run at Warren High School fueled by his knack for last second three pointers.
Keene averages over 30 points a game, and if he holds true to form, he will become the first college player in twenty years to average over 30 points for an entire season. (The last to do it was Charles Jones from Long Island University.)
Saturday, they hosted Ball State with first place in the MAC West Division on the line. Keene, and his 5-9 back court mate Braylon Rayson (who, by the way, is 22nd in the nation in scoring) combined for 74 of the Chips' 100 points in the 109-100 overtime loss, which is a pretty incredible feat for two guys considered 'too small' to play major college hoops.
Keene was incredible to watch. Usually looking to pass first, he drove the lane with authority against the much larger Cardinals, eventually setting up outside to shoot threes as the Chips fell behind by 12 early in the second half.
There are times when Keene appears to be trying to do too much, and he and Rayson can get careless with the ball at times. But overall, it was one the best offensive performances I've ever seen at that level by two guards of any size.
The game has a retro feel for me as Keene's game is reminscent of another Chippewa, Grand Rapids' own Melvin 'Sugar' McLaughlin, who manned the point guard position when I was at CMU.
Has any major college program had two guards under 6 feet tall score this much before? Not that I could find after several Google searches.
Certainly, small guards have made thier mark on the game. Names like Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb are on the tip of the tongue of undersized players the world over.
Keene's size hampered his ability to attract the attention of a major college program. Only one Division I school offered him a scholarship and that was lowly Youngstown State of the Horizon Conference. He toiled there for two seasons with unremarkable results before transferring to CMU, where he sat out last season due to the transfer rule.
Using the off year to bulk up and work on his shooting, Keene was chomping at the bit to get out on the floor as the Chippewas point guard, with Rayson moving to the shooting guard position.
Given the keys to the Chippewa offense by coach Keno Davis, Keene showed a knack for scoring in bunches early on, taking the team, and Keene, by surprise.
“We knew we had a special player,” Central Michigan coach Keno Davis told the Detroit News. “After nine or 10 games, I was asked, ‘Can he keep it up?’ And the answer was a resounding, ‘No.’ Nobody could keep those numbers up. Well, he’s proven me wrong. His off nights are usually 23 or 24 points. The nights where he has off halves, he ends up with 20-plus. The nights he doesn’t have off halves, he ends up with 40-plus.”
Last week, Keene broke the CMU single season scoring record, long held by Chippewa great and former NBA player, Dan Majerle. Disappointed by the team losing the game, he was reluctant to talk to the press about it, and even when honored with the game ball before Saturday's game, he seemed put off by all the attention.
Keene is mentioned on the short list for the Wooden Award, given annually to the game's best player, and this has attracted attention for not only pro scouts, but major sports media as well.
ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Wall Street Journal have all done feature stories on the 21-year-old junior.
And this game winning shot to beat Western last week made every highlight show in the country.
Keene's hot game has attracted the attention of some well know CMU alums. Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Pro receiver was in attendance Saturday to see Keenesanity for himself.
Keene says he will test the waters of the NBA before deciding on whether to return to Mount Pleasant for his senior season next fall.
So get up to the Mountain Town and witness the Keenesanity for yourself before it's too late.