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Player of the Decade: Keith Datu met, surpassed expectations at St. Joseph
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Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Keith Datu met, surpassed expectations at St. Joseph

Keith Datu's career at St. Joseph followed an impressive path. 

Datu, who entered St. Joseph High School as a 6-foot-6 freshman, improved in just about every facet of his game each season. 

That development resulted in a player who scored nearly 1,500 points in his prep career, adding nearly 1,000 rebounds and over 300 blocks.

“When you get someone as a freshman you always have high aspirations,” St. Joseph coach Tom Mott once said of Datu. “And you try to forecast where you think he’ll be in four years. Keith definitely lived up to our expectations.”

Datu is the second nominee in the Times' Player of the Decade contest, joining Cabrillo High graduate LeAndrew Knight. 

As a freshman in the 2010-11 season, Datu averaged 6.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, but was already showcasing his ability on the defensive end, averaging nearly three blocks a game. As a sophomore, Datu upped his numbers to 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, blocking 2.6 shots a contest. The following season, as a junior in 2012-13, Datu, once again, bumped his averages up across the board. He scored 12.8 points and grabbed 9.2 boards a game, blocking 2.8 shots. 

Then came Datu's senior season. He boosted his scoring average all the way to 19.3 points with 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. 

Datu played in 118 games as a Knight, scoring 1,448 points with 935 rebounds and 305 blocks, adding 75 assists and 73 steals. 

But how did Datu become such a linchpin at St. Joseph? How did he score nearly 1,500 points during his career? Well, Datu possessed the rare combination of size and quickness. Mott would draw up at least one play a game where Datu was the recipient of a lobbed alley-oop pass and had no trouble playing above the rim.

Datu relied on his size early in his career but developed an outside game and a versatile post game. He was one of the rare players who scored on dunks, hook shots and the occasional 3-pointer.

Datu signed with Chico State during his senior year at St. Joseph and spent the last five years there battling through injuries. Mott knew it would be difficult to replace Datu's presence on the roster back in 2014.

“He’s definitely someone that’s going to be missed a lot because he’s been our guy in the middle for four years — so we’re going to have a different look to us next year,” Mott said at Datu's 2014 signing. “We’re definitely going to miss Keith, not just for what he did on the floor, but his silent leadership and all the things he did for this team. He’s just a great guy to have around.”

Mott was right as players with Datu's combination of size, ability, talent and passion have proven rare. 

The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade. The rest of the nominees will be announced before a tournament-style voting contest will be held to determine the basketball Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com. Players from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County whose final seasons where in between 2009-10 and 2019-20 are eligible.

Player of the Decade Boys Basketball: Get to know the nominees before voting starts

We have been working to highlight the decade's best players in several different sports over the last few months, and now we continue with boys basketball. Go through this collection of profiles of our nominees and get ready for the voting.  We've really enjoyed the level of participation we've had with the football and girls basketball polls, so share these profiles and the contest with your friends to get the word out and support our local athletes.  

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