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Key returns after being named NJCAA third-team All-America selection

Juco basketball

POSTED November 1, 2012 11:07 p.m.
Mack McClure Tribune file photo/

Barton standout Al Key (24) elevates during NJC...

Algie Key saunters with the basketball around the perimeter on the hardwood inside Kirkman Activity Center at the outset of a preseason practice. He stops momentarily, dribble-penetrates and blows past a teammate, a would-be defender, and lays a scoop shot off the glass.
Al — as he is called by friends, teammates and even coaches alike — then shares a laugh with one of his Barton Community College buddies near the top of the key before stopping and popping a jump shot. Swish!
Key, the Cougars’ electric 6-foot-4 guard, is back for his sophomore campaign after an iconic freshman season. He established himself as a third-team National Junior College Athletics Association All-America selection in helping lead the Cougars to a 26-7 campaign.
Key had plenty of postseason hardware as he was also named as the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division Freshman of the Year, along with being a first-team All-Region VI pick.
Key led the Cougars with an 18.7 points-per-game scoring average, as well as ranking tops on the team in assists (164) and steals (60), despite playing the final month of the season with a shoulder injury. He had rotator cuff surgery last spring in Atlanta, Ga., to repair a partial tear, and missed a full summer of shooting while he was on the mend.
“It was tough not being able to go to the gym and shoot,” Key said. “It will take time, but I’m getting back into it. It feels a lot better.
“It was tough being out and not playing. When I first got back, I was trying to do too much in trying to get my teammates involved, but everything’s clicking now.”
Despite his injury, the recruiting letters from NCAA Division-I schools have never stopped flowing into the Barton athletics department. Oklahoma State’s letterhead is a frequent visual, along with letters from Kansas, Arkansas, Tulsa and Washington State.
“Everywhere, really,” Key said, “from mid major to high major.”
Kansas State?
“I haven’t received anything from Kansas State,” he said.
But don’t be surprised if he’s on the likes of first-year Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber’s radar before March rolls around.
“Who wouldn’t (want to play for Kansas State)?,” Key said.
The Decatur, Ga., native said he is going to wait until after the season to decide on a school. He wants to improve his shoulder, his overall game and help Barton take it to the next level.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to wait until the spring to make a decision,” Key said. “I don’t want to make a decision early, coming off surgery, and not let myself get into the flow.”
Key had a 30-point scoring explosion in Barton’s road victory over a talented Cloud County team in Concordia early in the conference season. He followed that up by being named as the NJCAA national player of the week and also garnered conference co-player of the week honors the same week in late February after scoring a career-high 32 points during an 84-69 triumph over Colby in Great Bend.
Flourishing in the open floor, Key shot 47.4 percent on field goals (210-for-443) while having a propensity for getting to the rim. He has been working hard on shoring up his shooting on 3-pointers after making only 8 of 35 last season (22.9 percent).
“Physically, he’s back to where he needs to be,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said of Key. “He still has his repertoire. Mentally, he just needs to learn that the game is physical and it’s going to cause some issues.
“Guys are really going to guard him differently this year. I think they’re going to play him to drive and he lost a whole summer of working on his jump shot. He’s going to continue spending time working on that. He will have to assume more of a leadership role for us, as well.”


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