ROCKLIN — The name Keith Phillips might not ring a bell but around William Jessup University, and especially on the hardwood, Phillips’ stock has been quickly rising.
“He was a guy that was getting recruited at the Big Ten level in Detroit during high school,” said head basketball coach Lance Von Vogt.
Twice now Phillips has been named the national NAIA player of the week, including this past week. He is the sixth leading scorer in the country, averaging more than 21 points per game.
“No matter what the numbers say, I feel like I can always improve every game,” he told FOX40.
Much of that improvement came during the off-season before his senior year. The 24-year-old dropped 30 pounds before training camp.
“Between his mom and I, we were both hammering him a little bit,” Von Vogt said. “Like, ‘Keith you’re really good right now but if you lose 30 pounds you’re gonna be fantastic.'”
His coach says that added 6 inches to his vertical leap and now Phillips plays above the rim for much of the game.
That has everyone thinking he will be playing soon at the next level.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to make money playing basketball,” Von Vogt said.
“Hopefully, I can get into the NBA or overseas. I just want to go somewhere to where I can provide for my family,” Phillips said.
Phillips is a California transplant. He grew up in east Detroit, a rough neighborhood in the middle of a city known for toughness, at the very least.
But his family made sure Phillips kept his head on straight.
“No matter what they were doing in the streets, they always pushed me to go to the gym. They would always come to the gym with me,” he said. “They’d bring everybody and come to the games, support. So, I don’t just do this for me, I do this for a lot of people.”
Phillips says he molds his game after another Michigan basketball player, Warriors star Draymond Green.
“The thing that is so similar about me and Draymond is that drive to win and that drive to just be the best player you can be on the court. No matter what the team needs, I’ll do it,” Phillips told FOX40.