The original plan was for C.J. Keyser to take a post-grad year and showcase himself for bigger schools. A three-star prospect, Keyser had multiple mid-major offers but wanted to see what another year at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kan., could bring.
A few weeks ago, Keyser changed his tune. The East Baltimore native and former Patterson Mill star saw no reason to prolong his pre-college life when Colorado State offered everything he wanted. Keyser committed to the Rams on Wednesday.
"Oh man, a lot of stress relieved," Keyser said. "I don't have to worry about where I'm going to be next year. I can just worry about finishing up strong and going straight to college, so it feels great."
Keyser, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound combo guard, picked Colorado State over offers from Boston University, Drexel, Duquesne, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's, Quinnipiac, Western Kentucky and several others. He had significant high-major interest as well.
As a junior, Keyser led Patterson Mill to the Class 2A semifinals, where he scored a game-high 19 points in a 56-34 loss to Oakdale. Patterson Mill "had a lot of great things," Keyser said, but he decided after the school year to transfer to Sunrise, where he got a chance to play a national schedule with more exposure and better competition.
"It was a big difference, but it was for the better," Keyser said. "I got to get away from all the distractions, really focused on my schoolwork. It was different, really had to grind it out every day. At first when I transferred I [missed Baltimore], but you kind of get used to it. It's like being away for college."
Early on in his time at Sunrise, Keyser discovered several ties to Colorado State. Emmanuel Omogbo, a junior college forward who, like Keyser, played AAU for Mid-Atlantic Select, signed with the Rams in the fall. So too did Keyser's roommate at Sunrise, forward Nick Carvacho.
"He was trying to sell me on the school," Keyser said. "Their coaches came up to watch me work out before the season even started, the beginning of the school year. They've been in contact with me ever since. I took a visit, got to see it for myself. Got to play with the guys and talk to everyone."
Keyser's visit to Fort Collins was a major success. He called the mountainside campus "beautiful" and felt comfortable hanging out with his future coaches and teammates. On the court, Keyser found just what he was looking for in the Rams' system.
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"I fit in perfectly because what they really do is play a lot of defense," he said. "They defend and I'm a great defender. My athleticism allows me to rebound, and they really care about rebounding. Offensively, they just let their players go. I feel like I can go."
Keyser will join a Rams program that finished third in the Mountain West, earned an NIT berth, and won a school-record 27 games. CSU loses four seniors – including Edmondson grad and starting forward Stanton Kidd – but the program has played in a postseason tournament four of the past five years and hopes to continue that trend with Keyser playing a significant role.
"I'm just a high-energy type of person," Keyser said. "I think [my role] depends on the amount of work I put in. I feel like if I put in the work, I can go in, ride it out every day and come in and contribute big minutes."