Like with most of Grand Canyon’s men’s basketball roster Keonta Vernon has a story.
The Tulare, California native originally signed with Wyoming before transferring to the College of Southern Idaho after redshirting his freshman season in Laramie. After a productive year at the successful junior college he decided to reunite with a Lopes’ coach who followed him every step of the journey.
“[GCU assistant] T.J. [Benson] recruited me from the jump, it stuck with me the whole time,” Vernon told Sports360AZ.com about his path to GCU. “I’m big on relationships. We built a good relationship…and he got me to come here.”
After helping CSI win 31 games last year Vernon has been a key piece in Dan Majerle’s 24-4 break- through season at GCU.
“He’s really grown as a player and a person since he’s been here,” Majerle said. “I’m going to expect great things out of him next year. He’s going to take a big leap hopefully in his shooting and other things around the basket.”
Only a sophomore, Majerle understands Vernon still has plenty of things to improve-especially defensively, which will come with more Division-I experience and mentoring from the Lopes’ staff. What they won’t have to teach is something they have little control over, anyway.
“Strong, freakishly athletic,” fellow sophomore Joshua Braun immediately said with a smile when describing his teammate. “He’s out-of-this-world athletic…moves people with ease.”
Don’t mistake his bullish, nasty play on the court for the person he is off it according to his fellow “Smash Brother.”
“He’s a funny dude, a real chill guy,” forward Grandy Glaze said of Vernon. “Team guy. The kind of guy you want to be around.”
Vernon has given GCU an added spark since taking over for the then-injured Matt Jackson in the starting lineup a few weeks ago. The 6-6, 225-pounder is second on the team in blocks and third in field goal percentage and rebounding.
The good news for Lopes’ Nation is the best is yet to come.