December has arrived… and that means several tournaments of high school hoops will start taking place all around the East Coast. I’m excited; showcases always give great opportunities for both player exposure and scouts, like myself, to get a good look at many teams. A big-time annual event is actually set for this weekend, Dec. 7-9: the ‘D.C. National Hoopfest,’ hosted at DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, MD). A handful of talented programs comprise the weekend schedule of game, including Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) powerhouse, Paul VI Catholic High School. The Panthers just had a good win against St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, MD) in the ‘BCL/WCAC Challenge’ this past Saturday (12/1). However, a big test should surface for them heading into this weekend. They face Montverde Academy (ranked as the #1 team in the country by MaxPreps.com) on Saturday night and then finish out the weekend with a Sunday afternoon matchup against Nicolet High School (Glendale, WI). When looking at the many talented players on rosters of all the teams, audiences should definitely keep an eye on a particular four-star prospect, Trevor Keels ‘21 of Paul VI.
A freshman last season in 2017-18, Keels arrived on school grounds and quickly made a huge impact for the Panthers. His stellar play resulted in him landing a spot on the WCAC All-League Third Team at the conclusion of the regular season; one of few freshmen in the WCAC to receive such honors. When observing at the 6’4” guard/wing on the floor, it’s understandable how most may quickly forget he’s only 15. For starters, Keels contains a college-level sized frame already… before he’s even obtained his driver’s license. I had a chance to watch Keels compete during a Paul VI team practice and left in awe. He plays at such an advanced level yet is still so young. His imposing strength and physicality makes him difficult to stop from finishing around the rim and his outside shooting has developed into a high efficiency. Honestly, he has that ‘three-level scoring’ in his package already. In addition, I feel his urgency to go after rebounds and vision to find others in the open floor serve as two of the more underrated facets of his game. It’s no wonder he’s ranked as a top 50 national player in his class.
After a successful outing with Team Takeover 16u this past summer, Keels’ evident talent has started to attract more and more attention throughout the last several months and now into this winter season. While many already held great expectations for him to build upon his freshmen campaign, a recent turn of events has now made those same expectations even more substantial. A few weeks ago, the Panthers’ star point guard Jeremy Roach ’20 tore his ACL in a preseason scrimmage. In the St. Frances Academy game this past weekend, backcourt mate Ant Harris ’19 suffered the same exact injury. Even with this freak occurrence, the rest of the Paul VI roster acknowledges that everyone will need to stay the course and maintain their focus for the amount of upcoming games soon piling in. With all of the sacrifices he’s already made in his life, Keels definitely knows what it takes to mentally prepare for any obstacles that may come across his way. His focus and dedication prove just as impressive compared to his skills on the court. Hear it from himself regarding his own journey thus far, only two years into high school:
What drew you into attending Paul VI last school year as a freshman?
“When I came for a shadowing, I also had a chance to watch the team practice. I could just tell right away that… the vibe of the team fit my own personality. The guys knew how to have fun in laughing and joking; that’s exactly how I am too. But, watching them on the court, I saw how quickly they played at all times. They sprint on offense and I love to play at that fast pace. I knew they’d let me show my versatility.”
How was it adjusting to the academics and school life here?
“Last year felt WAY different; going from middle school to high school. I kind of expected that honestly, but saw how especially serious the staff approaches academics here at the school. They don’t play around. You have to do your homework, pay attention in class, everything like that. I adjusted to it pretty well though.”
Saw you’re from Clinton, MD and still living there currently. Did the transition in both attending school and playing ball in Virginia come with any challenges?
“It can get pretty hard during the season. After games, I might get home around 11pm and then have to wake up again at 5am. Especially with homework; sometimes I might not be able to get some sleep until around 1am. But, you honestly get used to it. If you love the game enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get to the level you want to reach.”
After playing a year in the WCAC, what’re your thoughts on the historic conference?
“I think it’s the best high school league in the country, honestly. Because, if you think about it, pretty much every WCAC school has players going to high-major college programs. You can’t ever expect anything to be given… every team’s good and will put up a fight. No team’s going to just lay down. That’s what I like about it the best.”
You impressed a lot of people in the crowd with your play during your freshmen season. What have you focused on improving ever since the conclusion of last season?
“The biggest thing for me was losing some weight during the summer time. People were staying in my ear and saying I had started to get a little too big. So, I listened to all of that and made sure to slim down. Outside of working on my body, I made sure to work on my left hand a lot; finishing at the rim. That, and improving on counter moves.”
Saw that Wake Forest became the first school to offer you in the midst of last season. What other schools have offered?
“Yep, it’s Wake Forest, George Washington, and South Carolina.”
With Wake Forest being your first offer, how’s the relationship between you and the coaching staff?
“It’s great, one of the assistant coaches, Coach (Jamill) Jones actually was the only one around when they first offered me. A couple of weeks later, I talked to (Head) Coach Manning. They’re a really good school, I took a visit during my eighth-grade year and enjoyed it a lot. Great experience.”
What other college interest has started to flow toward your way?
“Butler, Georgetown, Cincinnati, along with some other schools.”
Obviously you accomplished a lot in your first year with Paul VI by winning a state championship and playing as a big contributor all season long. Anything else specifically you want to accomplish in your last three years of high school?
“Mainly just stepping up every year as a leader and in a bigger role. I look forward to that the most as I keep getting older. Personally, I want to make a first-team selection in the WCAC.”
Hobbies outside of ball?
“(laughs) Fortnite! I play with Jeremy Roach a lot.”
Where does Trevor Keels see himself in ten years?
“I’d like to see myself on an NBA team. Competing and trying to win a Finals series.”
Ironically, last winter during the DC National Hoopfest was also the time when Keels picked up his first offer from Wake Forest. He had exploded for a game-high 23 points against Oak Ridge High School (Orlando, FL). Let’s see what the young talent has in store for this year’s event! You can catch Paul VI in game action this Saturday and Sunday at DeMatha.