he Forest Lake Christian boys basketball team’s season was thrown into a tailspin on a chilly night in Colfax a little over a month ago.
Adam O’Brien, the Falcons’ starting point guard, left his feet to grab a pass from a teammate. He landed on one foot, then crumbled to the floor.
He had torn a ligament in his left knee and writhed in pain on the court as his senior season came to an abrupt end.
The loss of O’Brien, who along with returning starter Taylor Lawrence was the only other Falcon with any significant varsity experience, knocked both FLC’s Central Valley Christian League title and postseason hopes for a loop.
“That was big. We (lost) his offensive potential and since he was the team chaplain, he provided a lot of spiritual leadership too,” FLC’s first-year coach Steve Gonet said.
That’s where Chris Keller entered the picture.
The junior had been starting at shooting guard, but approached Gonet with an offer.
“He told me he could play the point earlier in the year. He had played at that position all summer with his AAU teams,” Gonet said. “And after Adam was hurt, I welcomed it.”
For Keller, 16, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I’ve always liked point guard and I’d been working all summer on my ball handling skills,” he said. “I’d always wanted a chance to play point guard and when Adam got hurt, coach put me in there.”
Keller, a Placer (Auburn) transfer who had been home schooled through ninth grade, made the transition from one of FLC’s go-to guys to the floor general without a hitch.
The 6-footer’s three assists per game is among the best in the Sacramento area.
While his main job on offense has shifted from just scoring to distributing the rock, his 11.0 ppg shows he’s adept at multi-tasking.
“He’s always been an all-around player. He’s a great ball handler and he’s also got a great shot,” Keller’s FLC teammate Aaron Johnson said. “(More importantly), he’s got a sense of where everyone is on the court. If you make a cut, he’s going to get you the ball.”
Keller cut his basketball teeth as a first grader in Granite Bay.
“My dad brought me up with the sport. We had a hoop in the back yard. He’d lower it and I’d get a ball and just start shooting,” he said. “I’ve played soccer and baseball and stuff, but it’s always been about basketball for me. It’s what I love to do.”
As a home schooler, the Orange County native didn’t have the opportunity to play for a school growing up, but that didn’t stop him from playing the sport he loved.
“I’ve played AAU all of my life, so playing in high school wasn’t a big deal. Going to Placer was OK, but I like Forest Lake a lot better because you know everyone here,” he said. “Placer had 1,800 kids. I like meeting new people, but it’s nice to have the same kids in a lot of different classes.”
With FLC knee deep in the CVCL season, Keller relishes his new role.
“I want to contribute to the team in any way I can. Maybe score 10-15 points (while) trying to work all of the teammates into the offense,” he said.
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