Al Key had an eye-opening experience when he got a text message from Barton Community College men’s head basketball coach Craig Fletchall.
Key, who took a catnap at his dorm room after an early-morning class on Tuesday, awoke out around noon to learn that he had been named as an NJCAA Division-I third-team All-America selection.
“It’s a blessing,” said Key, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder from Decatur, Ga. “I’m glad that I received it. I worked hard this season, and I think all the hard work paid off in the end.”
Key, a superlative coast-to-coast freshman guard, led the Cougars in scoring (18.7 points per game average), assists (164) and steals (60). He also was the team’s second-leading rebounder (216) while averaging a team-best 34.7 minutes per game.
Barton finished 26-7 overall, falling to Cowley in a Region VI semifinal after knocking off No. 5-ranked Coffeyville in a quarterfinal at Park City’s Hartman Arena in March.
“When you get the second-most votes in our region as a freshman, that speaks volumes of his consistency and his body of work because those schools don’t normally see you but one time,” Fletchall said. “The schools on the other side of the state (Kansas Jayhawk Community College Eastern Division) that have to vote as well do not see you very often.
“He answered the call against all of our opponents, playing well against everybody, and is very deserving of the honor.”
Key is Barton’s first selection on the All-America squad since Nyika Williams, a 6-8 power forward, was an honorable mention selection in 2009. He went on to stand out at Pacific University in Stockton, Calif., and is now playing professionally overseas in Japan.
Key, who also gained accolades as the Jayhawk West Freshman of the Year, is one of only two players from the Jayhawk Conference to land on the All-America team. The other is Seward guard Deverell Biggs, a first-team selection.
“You look at the guys below him that didn’t get it,” Fletchall said. “Cloud County guard Devon Branch is going to the University of Oregon and their other guard, Richard Carter, is going to Drake.
“You’ve got a whole list of guys that are going to good programs that didn’t get on the list.”
Key said his team suffering the season-ending loss to Cowley has added fuel to his fire for the offseason.
“I know we’re better than Cowley and I felt we should have beaten them and won the region,” he said, “so it does add to the fire.”