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Keefe Keeps Eye on Basket : Colleges: Former Woodbridge star is a top talent in volleyball, too, but in winter, that’s out of the picture. Tonight, he leads Stanford against UC Irvine.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Adam Keefe is not thinking about volleyball now, standing on the baseline in Maples Pavilion on a Tuesday afternoon with Kenny Ammann on the free-throw line.

No, more likely he is thinking that Ammann is golden on these two free throws and that there will be no wind sprints to run because of him.

He is thinking, three hours into a 3 1/2-hour basketball practice, that Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery is going pretty hard for the day before the Cardinal’s game tonight against UC Irvine.

This is not the time of year Keefe gives much thought to whom might be playing on the sand down at Newport. This is basketball; this is his focus.

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He was only a sophomore last season, but he came into his own, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinal, which went 18-12 in its first season after the departure of Todd Lichti. That success was largely because of Keefe, a 6-9, 230-pound post player who drew the praise of opposing coaches as well as most of the attention of their defenses.

It was the kind of season you probably imagined for Keefe if you watched him average 27 points and 12 rebounds during his senior season at Woodbridge High School, or even when he was a junior and led Woodbridge to the Division II state championship.

But even if you imagined it, you probably did not imagine it so soon.

You wonder, though. If Keefe averaged 20 as a sophomore, what will he do as a junior? By the time he’s a senior, how high could he go?

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But about the time last summer that the preseason basketball magazines were appearing on news stands, Keefe was in Buenos Aires, not with the U.S. basketball team--which also played there--but with the U.S. national volleyball “B” team.

Is that any way to get to the NBA?

Keefe knows that some people wonder.

“Some people want to latch on it, it gives them a slant or an angle,” Keefe said. “Other people don’t think I should have anything to do with volleyball.”

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Among those whose enthusiasm for Keefe’s volleyball career has cooled is Montgomery, whose brother, Dick, is the women’s volleyball coach at San Jose State.

“I’m kind of wearying of the volleyball question,” Montgomery said. “I think people make more of it than there really is. To me, he’s a basketball player who also plays volleyball. I know he likes that sport.”

Keefe knows how Montgomery feels.

“He doesn’t like it a whole lot,” Keefe said. “But he puts up with it because of what he said when he was recruiting me.”

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What Montgomery said was, “You can play volleyball, too,” which was something Dean Smith couldn’t say, because North Carolina has no men’s team.

Keefe plays volleyball for Stanford only during what remains of the season after basketball is over. He started the final eight or nine matches last season.

He would have preferred to spend his summer playing basketball for the United States, but he was cut during the tryouts for the team coached by Mike Krzyzewski in the Goodwill Games.

“I felt really good about it,” Keefe said. “I had a real good shot at making the team and thought I played well.”

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That door was shut, but the volleyball people left another open, and Keefe strolled through.

“They’d just like to get me playing as much volleyball as possible. I kind of have an open invitation there,” Keefe said.

Before you picture his summer as all spikes and no dunks, understand Keefe spent at least two months at home, playing in the summer league at Cal State Los Angeles on a team with Irvine’s Dylan Rigdon and Arizona’s Sean Rooks, and playing pickup games in the lair of the team he will face tonight. Instead of going down to the beach, Keefe spent hours in Crawford Hall with a group that included former Irvine players who have professional experience. Among those players were Johnny Rogers, Tod Murphy, Scott Brooks and Bob Thornton--as well as current Irvine players including Jeff Herdman and Ricky Butler.

When he was not playing competitive indoor volleyball, Keefe was giving his all to basketball.

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But that does not mean that his numbers are likely to climb, this year or even the next. And if they don’t, it probably will not be because another game is interfering.

“It’s difficult to increase your numbers a great deal,” Montgomery said. “You get to the point where people know what you can do and focus defensively on you. I said the same thing to Todd Lichti, ‘Your numbers aren’t going to increase that much.’

After five games, he is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think Adam is doing the other things a little better, like passing the ball,” Montgomery said. “He’s confident in the fact that he’s going to get the ball and get the numbers. He’s helping the other basketball players be better.”

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Keefe says his scoring average isn’t likely to improve much partly because of Stanford’s offense. Even though he is the focus of it, the Cardinal runs something of a half-court power game that tends to average under 70 points a game. Keefe averaged only 11 shots last season.

“I always check the paper, looking at UCLA or UCI,” Keefe said. “You look and see Ricky (Butler) had 22 shots or 18, the same with (Don) MacLean and the guys at UCLA.”

That is not a complaint so much as an observation about Stanford’s style and his role.

“Last year I averaged 10, 11, 12 shots a game,” Keefe said. “You take that and get 20 points a game, and at some point there’s not any more.

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“It’s difficult to score 20 points when you’re only shooting nine or 10 times a game. Two things have to happen. One, you have to shoot very well, and two, the refs have to be giving you some calls if you’re getting banged inside. You’ve got to get to the free-throw line six or eight times.”

Soon enough, you come to the heart of the issue, which is that Keefe gets 20 points a game out of 11 shots because he shot 63% from the field last season (tops in the Pacific 10) and 73% from the line. He tried (and made) more free throws than any other conference player.

As long as it is basketball season, basketball gets all of Keefe. Even during the summer, that is his goal.

“I’m going to try my best to make the World University Games or the Pan Am team,” he said. “That would be the first and foremost goal. The second goal would be the Pete Newell big-man camp, some type of summer workouts. I’d like to get with the professional guys again and let them teach me something.”

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But if basketball closes a door, volleyball always seems to be there, arms extended.

“They like to get me down there,” he said of the U.S. volleyball staff. “I have to try to do it while balancing it with basketball, which is my primary focus.”


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