College basketball: Sherrills excelling at Georgia Regents

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 31, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Dip Metress has coached college basketball 18 years, but never has he coached brothers.
Brothers share a gene pool, so they usually share a skill set, and schools don’t usually recruit two guys who can do the same thing.
But these brothers are different. The Sherrill brothers are as different as Mary Ann and Ginger were on Gilligan’s Island. They aren’t hard to tell apart. K.J., 22, stands 6-foot-8. Keshun, 19, is 5-9.
“People are alwas surprised when they find out we’re brothers,” Keshun said. “Everyone asks the same question. They ask me why he’s so tall — or they ask me why I’m so short.”
It’s an intriguing trip the odd-couple Sherrills are taking together now at Georgia Regents University (GRU), known as Augusta State when Keshun signed with Metress as a high school senior in April of 2012.
K.J. attended Keshun’s signing party in the lobby outside the West Rowan gym. Nine days earlier, he’d been released by the Charlotte 49ers from a scholarship. He had one year of college basketball left and was searching for a new home.
The Sherrills reunited in Augusta, Ga., last season. Neither played. Both were redshirts.
“For me, it was a year just to get acclimated to college,” Keshun said. “For K.J., it was a year to try to get healthy. It was tough not playing at first. We helped each other, though, and it got easier. We’d go to the gym together to shoot. Or we’d go lift weights together. Then we’d watch the games together.”
Keshun ran the scout team at Metress’ practices. There was a day he scored 17 straight points against the starters, a hint of things to come.
GRU is 16-3 and ranked 25th nationally in Division II. The Sherrills have been a good fit.
The last time the siblings played together as a senior-freshman combination was in 2009 when good times were rolling at West Rowan. Coach Mike Gurley’s Falcons were 25-4 and went 17-1 in the North Piedmont Conference.
Both Sherrills were epic high school players.
K.J. was the man for that deep 2009 team, always the biggest guy on the floor and one of the most athletic. He was Rowan County Player of the Year, averaging 19.1 points and 12.5 rebounds a game. He picked Charlotte out of a host of suitors.
Keshun deferred to his big brother as a freshman, but after that he took charge. He was Rowan County Player of the Year as a senior in 2012. He finished his high school career with 1,907 points, third in West history. The little guy even passed K.J., who stands fourth on that list with 1,596.
K.J. (Keith Jr.) had his moments at Charlotte playing in the Atlantic 10, especially as a sophomore. There was a 14-point, seven-rebound night at Rhode Island and there was a 24-point, 13-rebound game against La Salle that was hailed as a breakout performance.
But then he hurt a knee. His junior year his minutes dropped and he suffered a broken arm.
His career at Charlotte ended with just five career starts, and he needed to redshirt in 2012-13 to heal.
He got well. K.J. has been GRU’s leading scorer six times and leading rebounder six times. He averages 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in the Peach Belt Conference, a demanding league that Metress likes to call the ACC of Division II.
“There are nights when K.J. has a chance to dominate, but there are also times when we’re playing against teams with three guys like K.J.,” Metress said.
Keshun averages 9.4 points and 3.4 assists. Usually he starts, but sometimes he’s the first guy off the bench. He’s fine with either role.
“You have to remember he’s just a freshman,” Metress said. “Mike (Gurley) is such an outstanding coach that Keshun came to us with great knowledge of the game and he’s going to have a fine career. I’m just really glad Keshun and K.J. are having this chance to play together again. Brothers is an interesting dynamic. Usually, I look at them like everyone else, but once in a while I’ll grab Keshun and tell him, “Go tell your brother he needs to rebound!’”
Metress, who was Gurley’s college teammate at Belmont Abbey, acknowledged the brothers have different personalities. Keshun is a controlled storm of focus and intensity because he’s the guy who’s always had to prove himself. K.J. is more laid-back and gets a vocal push from his brother once in a while.
“That’s why I like to call Keshun the little-big-brother,” Metress said.
It’s a description that makes Keshun chuckle.
“It’s all good,” he said. “Playing basketball is good, playing on a winning team is very good, and playing with my brother again is best of all. Our chemistry is still there. K.J. should be the best rebounder on the floor every night and if he makes a mistake I will let him know about it. But later on, we can always laugh about it.”
The Sherrills share in a four-man apartment along with two Jaguar teammates, so in a way it’s like they’re kids again. Sometimes they’ll look up in the crowd, and even in Georgia, they’ll see family.
“Being with K.J. is great,” Keshun said. “Seeing him smiling and having fun again, seeing him dunking on people again and having that big presence again, it’s been wonderful. It’s his last year of college ball. I just want to make the ride as smooth as possible for him.”
Most of that ride has been free of bumps, but there was a tough moment recently. GRU had an 11-game winning streak stopped at Georgia College on a “buzzer-beater” that by all accounts came late.
“It was as frustrating a loss as I’ve ever experienced,” Keshun said. “But great teams can deal with adversity. We responded the right way. We came right back and beat a good UNC Pembroke on their home floor and we beat them pretty bad. That was a very good win for us.”
If Keshun sounds like a coach, it’s because he might well become one.
“I’ve been fortunate to have good coaches in my life,” he said. “I listen to Coach Metress sometimes and it’s like I’m listening to Coach Gurley. They’re a lot alike — funny people but really good people. They care about you. They want you to be successful in life not just when you’re on the court.”
Metress is thrilled his first experience with brothers has worked out. Keshun has three more years to learn from him. K.J. is a candidate to continue his career overseas.
“There have been nights when maybe one of them didn’t play great,” Metress said. “But they’ve both been good a whole lot more than they’ve been bad.”