Husker recruits Tominaga, Keita shine at NJCAA Final Four
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Husker recruits Tominaga, Keita shine at NJCAA Final Four

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Two future Huskers were back in action on Friday night in the Final Four of the 2021 NJCAA men’s basketball championship at Hutchinson Sports Arena.

2021 Nebraska signee Keisei Tominaga and No. 13-seed Ranger (Texas) College took on No. 8 Cowley (Kan.) College, while 2022 NU commit Blaise Keita and No. 10 Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. faced No. 6 Chipola (Fla.) College.

Tominaga and Ranger saw their season come to an end in a 116-97 defeat, but Keita and the Ravens advanced to the title game with a 66-63 victory.

Here are a couple of takeaways on the two Husker recruits…

2021 Nebraska signee Keisei Tominaga led Ranger (Texas) College with 26 points in a semifinal loss on Friday night.
2021 Nebraska signee Keisei Tominaga led Ranger (Texas) College with 26 points in a semifinal loss on Friday night. (Robin Washut)

Tominaga can take over games in stretches

Friday night’s semifinal matchup with Cowley got off to an awful start for Tominaga and Ranger.

Cowley’s full-court press gave the No. 13 Rangers fits from the jump, as they struggled even to get the ball past half-court on numerous possessions.

The majority of Tominaga’s shots early on came on rushed, deep 3-pointers, and he started 0-for-4 from behind the arc as a result.

But the three-star sophomore, who hit 50.3 percent from behind the arc this season, flipped a switch in the second half.

With Ranger trailing by as many as 21 at one point, Tominaga knocked down four straight threes and dished out two assists during the first 10 minutes after halftime to get RC back to within seven.

Tominaga finished with a game-high 26 points while going 10-for-21 from the field and 5-of-13 from 3-point range. He also added a team-high four assists and four rebounds in 34 minutes of play.

Tominaga’s fourth missed 3-pointer of the game was an airball on a wide-open look from the right elbow, and he quickly went to the bench for the next few minutes. When he returned, he scored 10 points and hit four of his next six shots to lead Ranger with 12 points at halftime.

The Japanese sharpshooter is a player that can get hot in an instant and take over a game for brief stretches with his endless range on the perimeter.

He has a significant adjustment waiting for him physically at the Big Ten level. Still, I see him as a player who can make an immediate impact for Nebraska as an offensive spark off the bench next season.

2022 NU commit Blaise Keita posted a double-double to help Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. advance to the national championship.
2022 NU commit Blaise Keita posted a double-double to help Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. advance to the national championship. (Robin Washut)

Keita more than held his own vs. high-major size

More often than not, 2022 Nebraska commit Blaise Keita is the biggest player on the floor, and usually by a fairly large margin.

That was most definitely not the case on Friday night.

When the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Keita took center court for the opening tip, he was standing across from 7-3, 248, Chipola center Naheem McLeod.

A redshirt freshman out of Philadelphia who averaged a modest 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, McLeod is a former three-star recruit who signed with Florida State in the 2021 class.

It wasn’t just McLeod, either, as Chipola boasted five players listed at 6-9 or taller on its roster.

For Keita, it was an excellent opportunity to get a taste of what life will eventually be like going up against that type of size on most nights in the Big Ten Conference.

He handled the challenge by posting a double-double with 11 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) and 11 rebounds, along with three steals, a block, and an assist in 30 minutes of action.

Six of his 11 rebounds came on the offensive glass, helping the Ravens get nine second-chance points.

Coffeyville head coach Jay Hirkelman said his team had faced opponents with that type of size this season, but none had a 7-3 post like McLeod.

Keita and CCC held McLeod scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting with four rebounds and two turnovers in 20 minutes of playing time.

“He was a warrior down there on the boards,” Hirkelman said of Keita. “They’re big, and they’re athletic. You get a double-double against competition like that and size like that; that’s a heck of a performance for him.”