May 3—CJ Keyes Jr. capped off his high school career with yet another dominant season.
The reigning Premier Preps Player of the Year in boys basketball showed why he was last year's pick by giving a repeat performance, finishing the season with 25 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per contest, helping the Quitman boys make it to the second round of the MHSAA Class 4A postseason.
Because of his stellar winter, Keyes was once again named the Premier Preps boys basketball Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
"It feels good," Keyes said. "It feels like I put in enough work to be able to get player of the year twice in a row."
Quitman boys basketball coach Chris Coleman said Keyes winning player of the year is an honor for Keyes, his family and Quitman.
"I think it's well-deserved," Coleman said. "He followed up from last season with another great season. We didn't go as far as we wanted to, but as a player he definitely had some accomplishments. He developed more as a leader and as a teammate, and he's the ultimate competitor. The bigger the game, the better he plays."
His senior year didn't come without some stress, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made people wonder if the season would be completed. It even forced the Quitman School District to halt athletic activities in December.
"It was kind of hard because we got shut down for a month, so we missed a bulk of our season, but it was good to still get to play with my teammates," Keyes said.
Now that he's had time to reflect, Keyes said he's grateful the Panthers did as well as they did, though he would have loved to have a deeper playoff run.
"It felt good but also kind of bad because we didn't win a state championship, but I was happy to be able to play my senior season," Keyes said.
An East Central Community College signee, Keyes said he's now focused on getting ready for the next chapter in his basketball career.
"I'll be going to EC in June to start working out, so I'm looking forward to playing over there," Keyes said.
As he reflects on his senior's high school career, Coleman said one thing that impressed him in particular about Keyes was having a strong junior season despite a hardship in his personal life.
"Last season, what people didn't know was his mom was battling breast cancer," Coleman said. "It was tough on him in the beginning balancing family with school and then basketball. It was tough at times, but he matured at a rapid pace on and off the court. I think that's a testament to him and his family in being able to overcome and have a great season regardless of circumstances."