SIOUX CITY — Javonte Keck can point to the exact moment when everything started to click for him.
It was East's substate final game against Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. Keck's duty was to guard Troy Houghton, who scored 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the Lynx's victory over the Black Raiders a few weeks prior. Houghton scored 22 points, but it was on 9-of-20 shooting, below the 50 percent he shot all season.
"I put it in my head in that game that he wasn't going to do his stuff on me," Keck said, who the Metro Athlete of the Week.
Keck had a coming out party on the offensive end, too, in East's 63-59 victory in last year's substate final. He scored 17 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-8 shots and was 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds, five on the offensive end.
That was the confidence booster Keck needed. He hit the weight room in the offseason and continued to develop his game. He grew an inch and now fills out at 6-foot-7, 185 pounds.
The gains Keck made in the substate final game have carried over to this season. The senior forward is averaging 16.5 points and a team-leading 8.9 rebounds per game. He scored 24 points in a win against Le Mars on Friday and then helped fuel the Black Raiders 17-point fourth-quarter comeback over Johnston on Saturday with 23 points. The 17-point fourth quarter comeback helped keep East's perfect start to the season intact at 8-0.
East coach Ras Vanderloo said Keck has turned into a game-changer this season.
"His length and athleticism to go with his height have made him a great player. He's been a late developer. He is playing at a high level, a college level," Vanderloo said. "Coming out of last year, the last half of last year, his game has taken a step up. We thought he would be a very big part of our team and he has answered the call."
While it's Keck who has put the work in to play at this high level, he's the first one to give credit to his teammates for his success especially over the past couple of games.
He sees it as a well-round team attack with him, Aidan Vanderloo, Jaleque Dunson, Sayvion Armstrong and Jack Peterson.
"I've just been playing and my teammates have been giving me the ball. I've just been playing basketball," Keck said. "I think it's more of a team thing. With Aidan not scoring as much the past couple of games, Jaleque, Sayvion and Jack, we have to step up. It just depends on the moment."
Keck did admit it is more fun starting this season than coming off the bench. East had Van Rees in a starting role, meaning Keck came off the bench. While Keck was able to energize the team off the bench last season, he's doing it even more in a starting role.
"He realizes now that he can do this and he can do a lot of things," Ras Vanderloo said. "Night in and night out with his rebounding and scoring. I always think the dunk is just worth two points but it energizes the crowd and gets the team going on his dunks. He's a super kid, very coachable and he's just a good kid to be around."
Even with the improvements Keck has made this season, he still thinks he's only scratching the surface.
"I just hope I can keep improving my game and playing (NCAA) Division I basketball has always been a dream of mine," Keck said. "The weight room has helped me out a lot. I've always been a bit scrawny but not as much now. The more I get in there, the more my game will keep improving."
Ras Vanderloo said Keck can absolutely play at the D-I level.
"You can see when they realize it and become real players. He's taken the weight room seriously and that's a big step," Vanderloo said. "I've told many colleges this. Two years from now, when he gets a little more strength and confidence, he could be something special."
Easton Graff, Sergeant Bluff-Luton ... picked up his 150th win a couple of weeks ago, defeated the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds in Class 2A a few days later and won the 152-pound title in Atlantic this past weekend.
Nicole Jacobson, Bishop Heelan ... had 20 points and 13 rebounds in Heelan's win over Le Mars right before the holiday break and had 15 points in Saturday's win over Omaha Skutt.