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Joshua Keyes is ready to showcase his talents after a stellar season in Vietnam

By Tom Ballato

Everyone has a story to tell, but sometimes you need to let your game do the talking. Joshua Keyes did just that coming from a small university in Ohio to becoming a well-traveled professional basketball player.

Keyes attended Muskingum University, a Division III in New Concord, Ohio, two and a half hours away from his home in East Cleveland, Ohio. It was the right fit for him, not too far from home, but far enough for him to grow.

At 6-foot-7, the small forward proved he could rebound and defend the rim. Keyes developed his game in the four years he spent at Muskingum University, averaging 12.8 points and 11.3 rebounds by his senior year. While he excelled on the court, meeting new people and developing relationships is what he enjoyed most.

Keyes wrapped up his career as the program’s all-time leader in rebounds (725) and blocks (163), graduating with a degree in criminal justice.

Joshua Keyes with the Saigon Heat.

After his senior season, Keyes participated in an all-star game that featured DeAllen Jackson, the player of the year in his conference. Jackson was getting offers to play overseas, and scouts took notice of Keyes’s game as well. They both went on a package deal to play in Romania for CS Cruza Sport Braila.

CS Cruza Sport Braila signed Keyes to a one-year deal with an option for a second year in 2017. It a season filled with highs and lows. Jarrell Marsh, a teammate and close friend of Keyes at Muskingum University, passed away in a car accident. His passing had an impact on his rookie season, along with being so far away from home. Keyes played for his teammate, and the club won the championship in his first season.

It was an adjustment as a rookie playing overseas, but staying within your role kept Keyes grounded. He knew what he needed to do night in and night out. The club brought him back for a second season, but Keyes decided to return home after five games in 2018.

In 2019, Keyes’ girlfriend was pregnant with his son, so he took the year off preparing for the birth of his first child. He worked a full-time job while attending combines and was voted All-EuroBasket Summer League in New York 1st Team. The small forward also played in The Basketball Tournament for We Are D3. Keyes stayed in shape to keep building his game to keep the dream of playing professionally again alive.

After spending more than a year away from the game, Keyes knew he needed to jumpstart his career again. He was preparing to play in The Basketball League (TBL), an up-and-coming minor league basketball organization.

The Dallas Skyline of the TBL drafted Keyes in the second round in 2019. Keyes drove 16 hours from Cleveland to Dallas, and after a week of training camp, Dallas Skyline and Keyes mutually parted ways. Shortly after parting ways, Keyes was headed to Florida to play for the Gulf Coast Lions, where he was having a solid season until Covid hit and ended the season.

During the pandemic, Keyes returned home, and his agent presented him with the opportunity to play in Vietnam for the Siagon Heat in September of 2020. Siagon won the championship the year before, and the pressure to repeat was on. Keyes was brought in to play alongside Christian Juzang, a former Harvard standout.

It took some time for Keyes to get his rhythm in Vietnam. He suffered an ankle injury early in the season but played through it. As an import, Keyes knew that he had to make the most of every opportunity, or he could be released at any moment. Juzang and Keyes locked in after a rocky start, and Saigon finished the season 10-2.

Saigon made it to the playoffs and went on to win the Vietnam Basketball Association Championship. Keyes was named the most valuable player for his play and finished with 20 points and 21 rebounds in the third game of the finals versus Thang Long Warriors.

Keyes returned home this past December and looked to play in early 2021, but borders around the world were closed, making it hard for him to sign a contract.

The kid from Cleveland with two championships on his resume looks to build off a successful season in Vietnam and continue his career 2021. Keyes continues to give hope to Division III athletes that you can make a dream into a reality.

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