Keyser looks to becoming the next “energy guy”


Selena Favela

Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly and C.J. Keyser take a selfie during a photoshoot.

For countless seasons, Wichita State has had that one stand-out player whose contributions to the team don’t necessarily show up in the box scores.

In the Baker-VanVleet era, that standout player was former Shocker shooting guard Evan Wessel.

Wessel was so notorious for his scrappy play style that Head Coach Gregg Marshall coined the term “doing the Evan Wessel-type things.”

That label was given to senior forward Rashard Kelly last season, when Kelly gave the Shockers the edge they needed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Kelly bought into his role of doing the dirty work and going the extra mile to give Wichita State a burst of energy whenever he came off the bench.

Last season, senior center Shaquille Morris noted that those types of players helps win games and is a “tougher role than most realize.”

“He gets us started and sparked with the little things just like Evan Wessel used to do,” Morris said. “Those type of guys help us win games.”

With Kelly being a senior, the spot of the “energy guy” is left open, but there’s one player who is following right in Wessel and Kelly’s footsteps: sophomore guard C.J. Keyser.

Keyser has seen an increase of earlier minutes in the last stretch of the regular-season, even in those down-to-the-wire games.

Keyser’s breakout game of the season was against Tulane. Before that game, Keyser was averaging 2.2 points per game.

He finished with 11 points and knocked down all seven of his free throws, which came in clutch for Wichita State when Tulane came too close for comfort.

Since then, Marshall has been using Keyser for when the Shockers needed more energy and scrappiness on the court. Keyser has realized how he fits into the mix by being able to do the dirty work.

“My role is to just come off the bench and being a dog,” Keyser said. “Doing the dirty work and playing defense, get out in transition, and just being a defensive stopper.”

Keyser, who is also roomates with Kelly and senior forward Zach Brown, said they are able to help him grow into that role not only on the court, but in his personal life as well.

“Rahsard and Zach, I live with them. They talk to me every day,” Keyser said. “I can’t walk around the house without a pep talk and motivation or something like that.”

Kelly said by being Keyser’s roommate, he’s wanting to see him succeed and grow even more. Kelly thinks that Keyser can do even more to reach his fullest potential, and he wants him to get there faster than it Kelly to do for himself.

“I think he’s only scratching the surface of what he can do this season, we’re rooting for him,” Kelly said. “But me personally being his roommate and being in the same situation, I want him to get to it faster than I did.”

Keyser said he is going to take his experience that he is getting at March Madness to apply to being a leader next season.

“This is my second time here, I’m trying to get more comfortable with big stuff like that,” Keyser said. “I’m trying to soak it in and learn everything.”

Despite the experience the Big Dance might bring for Keyser, it’s also the day-to-day work that he wants to learn from that he can then translate into his role next season.

“I’m trying to learn everything from the scenes,” Keyser said. “The day-to-day grind and coming in with that right mindset and just getting ready to work.”