Austin Keaton was riding high in 2010. The former Pitman High standout had secured a roster spot with Culver-Stockton College’s baseball program—his only scholarship offer—and was on his way to fulfilling his collegiate athletic dreams
But after a year in Canton, Mo. with the Wildcats something was missing. Keaton was finding success on the baseball field but something was gnawing at him, telling him to look back home to the Valley.
It was basketball.
A year away from the court had reawakened his desire for the game. That —and a coaching change from Chris Terry to Kevin Cox—led Keaton to make the tough decision to end his time with Culver-Stockton and pick up the basketball for Modesto Junior College.
“Basketball’s always been my first love and I just missed it,” Keaton said.
But Keaton wouldn’t be away from the Wildcat family for long. After a winning 18-12 season with the Pirates that saw him average 17 points and 7 rebounds a game, Keaton was again being pursued by Culver-Stockton, only this time by basketball coach John Windham.
“They took a look at my highlight tape from MJC and they liked what they saw,” Keaton said.
Keaton’s return to Culver-Stockton might have been a long shot if it wasn’t for his familiarity with the school’s athletic department that was willing to bring on an athlete in his last year of eligibility. That reality wasn’t lost on Keaton, so once the season started rolling he made sure to make the best of his opportunity.
“With this being my last year I want to make it to the national tournament and end this on a good note,” Keaton said. “Once we got going it’s been nothing but fun ever since.”
The Wildcats are currently 17-6 overall and 9-3 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference with Keaton starting at guard. With an average of 14 points a game, Keaton is the third leading scorer on the team and one of the reasons Culver-Stockton is sitting in second place in the HAAC with a chance to earn an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.
“We have a couple of guys we can count on to score and we also have role players who have helped us get to where we’re at right now,” Keaton said.
As Keaton’s athletic career nears its end—there are only seven regular season games left—his plans for the future are beginning to draw closer and closer. Once he has finished fulfilling his passion for basketball, Keaton hopes to return to Pitman High and develop the next crop of Pride athletes.
“I want to come back and become a basketball coach at the high school level,” Keaton said. “It would be a lot of fun to finish it out here at Culver and come back to Turlock to coach.”