During my 40 plus years of observing high basketball, one thing that has always been crystal clear is the most popular players are not necessarily the very best players.
It was just over a year ago when I first observed 6’1 New Jersey then sophomore guard Keith Mency at the Columbia University summer basketball camp.
Mency was more than dominant at the showcase for potential Ivy League recruits, so I sought out his father Keith Sr. to discover who was recruiting his son.
“He’s not really on the division college radar at the moment,” his dad said.
Well what a difference a year can make, after Columbia and several other summer camps, Mency returned to the AAU circuit with a bang and concluded his coming out party with a dazzling display at the USA National Championships.
His uncanny ability to create shots for himself while also playing within the framework of the team was impressive, but his grade point average is also stellar at 3.5.
Mency reminds me of the staple Villanova guards, not super fancy, rock solid and ultra efficient.
Last season Mency was the sixth man on Marist High roster, but the school closed down.
He received praise from his head coach. “We rely on him a lot,” Ben Gamble said of Mency. “He can score, he can shoot, and he can defend. I think he’s one of the most underrated shooters around.”
During his junior season with the Royal Knights he averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and four steals per outing and has been starting since his freshman year.
With modest offers from obscure American University and Caldwell, Mency was a kid without a high school and a country in the grips of coronavirus pandemic clouded his future even more.
However all that can change when Mency begins playing at prestigious Stepinac which has been a Garden State and national power for the past four years, capturing New York State AA Federation, New York State AA Catholic and New York State Archdiocese titles, respectively.
Perhaps even more significant is that Mency will be on the same team with nationally No. 9 ranked and Duke bound signee AJ Griffin with the Crusaders.
The Crusaders have sent 14 players to colleges during the past four seasons and Mency is likely to join that list.
“My dream is to continue to be a true facilitator on the court, have an opportunity to become recognized and allow myself options to attend a D-I University,” he stated.
Adding, “I would like continue with my low rate of turnovers and improve my average points, assists and steals per game. I know if I increase my opportunities to drive as well as increasing my overall motor/level of energy it will improve my overall game.”
What clearly sets Mency apart from other players is his extreme amount of poise and self-control.
“I have managed to remain calm and in control in extremely intense games and regardless of the situation I will not fold under pressure. I am a listener and know how to properly play the role I am given and live up to the expectations of me on and off the court.”
Coronavirus has spread like wild fire in other parts of the country, but New Jersey and New York have slowed the pandemic, therefore allowing for high school basketball to be played.
Mency can’t wait! He’s more than anxious to prove what he always believed, that he is one of the best high school players in the state of New Jersey and beyond and ultimately realizing his dream for a division I college basketball scholarship is on the horizon.