College Basketball: Keshun Sherrill masterful in Augusta
Published 12:00 am Monday, December 28, 2015
It was Dec. 15, and Keshun Sherrill was on a roll in his home arena — Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Ga.
“I felt good, and everything that left my hand felt right,” the West Rowan grad said in a phone interview. “Maybe I forced two or three shots, but everything else I shot, I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hand.”
Sherrill exploded for 43 points that day for Augusta’s Jaguars in an 89-85 win against Coastal Georgia. That was two more than his career high at West Rowan and was a remarkable effort for a 21-year-old junior who stands just 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds.
Still, it wasn’t completely unexpected.
As a redshirt freshman, Sherrill earned a starting role on a strong team, averaged 11.7 points and was the Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year.
As a sophomore, Sherrill made All-America teams and averaged 18.7 points per game. He was Augusta’s Male Athlete of the Year, an award that includes every sport at the school.
No one who saw Sherrill play in high school expected him to struggle in Division II basketball, but competing in what may be the best D-II league in America (the Peach Belt Conference) he’s exceeded the expectations of many.
Sherrill is averaging 26.3 points per game this season, and you just don’t expect 5-9 guys to dominate.
Entering the Christmas break, Sherrill was tied for third in Division II in scoring.
“After that 43-point game, I actually was leading Division II for a few days,” Sherrill said. “My brother (K.J.) took a picture of that stats page and sent it to me. I guess I have surprised myself a little bit to be one of the national leaders. But I know I’ve worked really hard at basketball for a long time, and I’ve been able to build up my confidence over the years. The more good games you have, the more confidence builds.”
Sherrill is not shooting well from the 3-point line in the early going (28.6 percent). If he locates his long-distance stroke, he’s going to score even more points. He’s been finishing at the rim and he’s been deadly on pull-up jumpers. He’s already had two 30-plus games, in addition to that blistering, 43-point effort.
Opponents are trying hard to make it difficult for him. In previous years, Augusta had numerous scoring threats, but this season every opponent has been able to focus on stopping the little guy. Sherrill usually hears, “Watch out for No. 10!” as soon as he emerges from the locker room.
“We graduated five seniors who really knew the system here, guys who could score when they needed to,” Sherrill said. “This year, teams have been guarding me baseline to baseline. It has been tough, but I’ve been able to take advantage of the rule changes. It’s a quick foul now as soon as someone puts two hands on you. I’ve been getting by guys and getting fouled and we’ve been shooting 1-and-1s very early in a lot of games. Free throws are the easiest points you can get.”
Free throws have been routine for Sherrill. He’s 60-for-67 at the foul line in Augusta’s eight games, and that’s keyed his lofty scoring average. In his 43-point game, he was 14-for-15 on free throws.
Sherrill reached a career milestone early this season. He scored 25 points in a home win against Shaw on Nov. 28. That put him over 1,000 points for his career.
“It was kind of a surreal feeling, getting to 1,000 points so early,” Sherrill said. “I fell a little bit short of scoring 2,000 points in high school (he ranks third all-time at West with 1,907), but one of my goals now is to score 2,000 in college.”
His immediate goal is to get more wins. Augusta coach Dip Metress, who roomed with West Rowan coach Mike Gurley when they played at Belmont Abbey, always puts together a strong team, but the Jaguars have started this season, 3-5.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys and I know they look up to me to lead them to some wins,” Sherrill said. “I’m sure we’re going to pull it together. It’s just going to take a little time.”
Sherrill made three trips back to North Carolina last season — to Shaw, to Mount Olive and to conference opponent UNC Pembroke.
But this Thursday, New Year’s Eve, he’ll play closer to home than he has since he left for Georgia. Augusta is playing a 2 p.m. game at Wingate, about an hour from Salisbury.
Sherrill would like to score 43 against the Bulldogs, but he’ll be happy with 13 if the Jaguars can beat the Bulldogs.
“My family said they’re bringing a whole busload of people to Wingate,” Sherrill said with a laugh. “I hope we can win one for them.”
NOTES: K.J. Sherrill, three years older and 11 inches taller than Keshun and the No. 4 scorer in West Rowan history, teamed with his brother at Augusta in the 2012-13 season and played pro ball in Germany in 2014-15. He’s rehabbing following shoulder surgery and hopes to be playing overseas in August.