Transfer Keller commits to basketball with 2 years of eligibility left

By Jeremy Werner

Bruce Weber announced Thursday that junior college transfer Dominique Keller signed a national letter of intent to play for Illinois with his remaining two years of eligibility.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward from Port Arthur, Texas, joins an Illini team with a demand for post players following the graduation of leading rebounders Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt.

“Dominique is a very versatile player,” Weber said in a statement. “He was a prolific scorer in one of the top junior college conferences in the country. He can score in many different ways and runs the court extremely well. He’s also an effective rebounder and shot blocker with his great athleticism.”

Keller, Scout.com’s 18th-ranked junior college prospect, was the second-leading scorer in the NJCAA with 25.5 points per game this season for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. The newest Illini also averaged 9.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Weber said Keller’s versatility to play on the wing or in the post gives Illinois a player who can pose matchup problems for a defense.

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    “They need someone who can hold a scholarship down for two years, who can rebound and play defense, and I think I can be that guy down low,” Keller said during an official visit to Assembly Hall on March 6.

    Despite junior Rodney Alexander’s recent departure, Keller will join a host of unproven players competing for time in the post, including first-team all-state selection Stan Simpson from Chicago Simeon.

    Freshmen Mike Davis and 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale are the Illini’s most experienced post players heading into next season, each averaging 10.4 minutes per game last season. Injuries limited freshman Bill Cole to 12 appearances and 81 minutes, while sophomore Richard Semrau logged just 19 minutes for the Illini.

    Weber will likely turn to a more guard-oriented roster with the arrival of Kentucky transfer Alex Legion and the return of junior guard Jamar Smith, who redshirted this year after pleading guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in February 2007. Junior Trent Meacham and freshman Demetri McCamey return next season as the team’s leading scorers, averaging 10.1 and 8.2 points, respectively.

    Illinois to play Clemson in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

    Illinois will host the Clemson Tigers on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as part of the 10th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game will be the first time the two programs meet in the Challenge.

    The Illini have struggled in the yearly event with a record of 3-6, falling to Maryland the past two seasons. Illinois defeated North Carolina in 2002 and 2005, but its most memorable win came over then-No. 1 Wake Forest in 2004 at the Assembly Hall.

    Overall, the ACC holds a 56-30 advantage in the Challenge. North Carolina will face off against Michigan State at Ford Field, the indoor stadium of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Other anticipated matchups include Duke at Purdue, Wisconsin at Virginia Tech and Indiana at Wake Forest.

    All games will be televised on the ESPN network, including two on ESPNU. The time and network of the Illinois-Clemson match up has yet to be announced.

    2008 ACC/Big Ten Challenge schedule:

    Monday, Dec. 1

    Wisconsin at Virginia Tech

    Tuesday, Dec. 2

    Duke at Purdue

    Clemson at Illinois

    Ohio State at Miami

    Virginia at Minnesota

    Iowa at Boston College

    Wednesday, Dec. 3

    North Carolina vs. Michigan State (Ford Field; Detroit, Mich.)

    Indiana at Wake Forest

    Michigan at Maryland

    Florida State at Northwestern

    Penn State at Georgia Tech