SOUTH PORTLAND—Ever since he was a little boy dribbling a basketball, South Portland senior Keegan Hyland, a 2010 Mr. Maine Basketball finalist and one of the most dynamic and prolific players in recent memory, has dreamed of playing big-time college hoops.
Now, his wish has come true.
Hyland announced this week that he’s going to attend and play basketball at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., where he hopes to make an immediate impact for a program that has become synonymous with March Madness.
“I always wanted to play at the highest level,” Hyland said. “These guys are at the highest level. Top 25 every year. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I look forward to it. I knew of Gonzaga obviously. Their games are on TV. I never thought they’d call. West coast to east coast is really rare.”
Hyland, who started as a freshman, is the leading scorer in the storied history of the Red Riots. He eclipsed the 1,000 career point mark as a junior, but played only three games in his senior season after suffering a stress fracture of his pelvic bone. Hyland was planning on attending prep school next year, but Gonzaga came calling.
“During the season, after practice one day, they left a message saying they’d heard about me and that needed a shooter for next year,” Hyland said. “I called them back and we talked back and forth. Three weeks ago, (assistant coach) Ray Giacoletti came out and watched an individual workout here. I did a bunch of drills. He liked what he saw and came to the house and offered me a visit out there and we decided to out. I went out there last week with my dad. We visited Tuesday and Wednesday and got back Thursday. I played pickup for two days and coach (Mark) Few offered me a scholarship. He told me to go home and talk it over with my family. I’ll sign a Letter of Intent soon.
“How good they are basketball-wise was very appealing. When I played pickup with them, it was really good basketball, it wasn’t just one-on-one. They played how I believe how the game should be played. That’s important to me.”
Tom Hyland, Keegan’s father, who teaches and coaches boys’ tennis at South Portland, is happy with his son’s decision.
“It’s everything that he’s wanted,” Tom Hyland said. “After a tough year, for it to turn out like this is pretty special. He’s a special kid. He’s going far away, but this is his dream. We’re proud. It’s a huge challenge for him. That’s what he loves. It’s a great fit for him and his style. It’s a clean program. They do everything by the book. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
The senior Hyland added that Keegan will be on scholarship for his freshman year and if he remains in good standing, will remain on scholarship going forward.
Hyland’s signing is a big feather in the cap of a South Portland program that has re-established itself as a power the past few seasons.
“It’s been unbelievable here,” Keegan Hyland said. “It’s really the community. Coach (Phil) Conley all my friends are really supportive. We didn’t get where we wanted to, a state championship, but coming in and helping the program re-emerge was special. It’s a really close, supportive group of people. Senior season wasn’t fun, to put it lightly, but this is a great opportunity.”
“This is a very happy day for Keegan and for South Portland basketball,” Conley added. “I’m so proud of what he’s done on the off the court. He’s been a big-time player and has worked extremely hard to be where he is today. For him to go play for a program like Gonzaga is just tremendous. I’m very happy for him. It’s nice a reward for all the hard work he’s done.”
Hyland said he struggled with the fact that he’ll be so far from home, but that he expects to adapt. He’s hoping to see ample playing time as a freshman.
“They don’t guarantee playing time,” Hyland said. “They know I shoot the ball well and they need that. If I come in, shoot well and work on my defense, (coach Few will) have to give me minutes. They should be a top 25 team next year. The Final Four’s their next step.”
“I see him fitting in fine,” Conley added. “He’s a big-time scorer. He can shoot. I think he’ll do fine there. He’s going to work on his game and I think he’ll be a nice player for them.”
Hyland said that he doesn’t know what he plans to study. He looks forward to having some time to get back into top shape physically, then take a stab at the next level.
“I’m not 100 percent,” Hyland said. “I took a month after the season to get my hip squared away. It’s good now. I’m just getting back into working out. My conditioning and quickness aren’t as good. It’ll be awhile, but I have the whole summer to work out. I’ll start getting back to normal.”
Hyland also heard from the likes of Davidson (where former Falmouth standout Bryant Barr has spent four seasons), Penn State, Seton Hall, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Providence.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Keegan Hyland will bring his skills to Gonzaga University next year.