Walk-on Sellers puts the work in to help the Sycamores

Tribune-Star file/Joseph C. Garza

Inside presence: Indiana State’s Keon Sellers scores on a rebound during the Sycamores’ 65-42 win over Evansville on Jan. 15 a tHulman Center.

Keon Sellers might not have his name on his jersey yet, but that doesn’t mean the walk-on isn’t making a name for himself inside the Indiana State men’s basketball program.

Sellers, a freshman, was accepted as a walk-on addition prior to the season. The St. John native wasn’t expected to see the court much ... if at all.

However, circumstances changed to push Sellers — a 6-foot-4, 180-pound swingman — closer to playing time. ISU dismissed Blake Brinkmeyer and fellow walk-on Tyeshon Martin in December. Recently, ISU center Chris Agbo has been out for personal reasons.

That means Sellers’ love of the game might get some minutes to go along with the hard work he’s putting in. He’s played in five games and notched 12 minutes while scoring three points. 

And if those minutes don’t come? Sellers will be content to make the team better behind the scenes.

“I don’t have to be a scorer, they already have people like that. I have to facilitate for the program. When I’m on scout team, I’m here to make everyone better and lock down on defense,” Sellers said.

Sellers, who has a love of cooking, came to ISU via Don Bosco Prep School in Crown Point and Lake Central High School in St. John. He helped Lake Central win a sectional during his senior season in 2018. He was one of the Indians’ primary scorers. He was also a member of Lake Central’s state-qualifying 400-meter relay team.

“I played three sports: football, basketball and track at Lake Central. They thought I was athletic and quick on my feet,” Sellers noted.

“We played Crown Point, Munster, Merrillville, the competitiveness in the Region is really good and it gets you ready for the next level.”

Sellers appeared on ISU’s radar when he was at Don Bosco. ISU coach Greg Lansing and assistant coach Kareem Richardson played a role in Sellers’ presence at ISU.

“It’s a recruited position. We knew the coaching staff and they spoke highly of him as a person. You need a high-quality person in that position,” Lansing said. “He’s definitely a hard worker and unheralded. He wasn’t really a recruited kid, but he wanted to be part of a Division I program.”

Sellers hopes his hard work in practice will help get opportunity during games. Lucas and Logan Eitel, Matt Deady and Martin are players who eventually worked their way into ISU’s rotation as walk-ons in the Lansing era.

“I’m thankful to be a part of the program. I love the team, the chemistry and I love the staff,” Sellers said. “All of the work they put in shows they can get minutes. If you put work in? The outcome will be what you want.”

The biggest thing for Sellers is that he meshes with the players and coaches and fulfills a thankless, but important role.

“He fits right in and the guys like him. Being a good teammate is important in this role. Now we need to get his name on his jersey!” Lansing said.

Sellers has worn No. 43 with no name for the balance of the season, very similar to a “blood jersey” a player uses in an emergency after he bloodies his regular jersey. Sellers is listed as No. 25 (also his number at Lake Central) and would, of course, prefer to have the real thing.

“I’ve been waiting for that. I don’t want 43 anymore, I want 25!” said Sellers, who also made a point to express how happy he was with his situation. “I’m having a blast here at Indiana State.”

• Drake next up — Drake visits Hulman Center at 7 p.m. today. This will be the first Missouri Valley Conference rematch of the season for the Sycamores. ISU lost a taut 80-76 thriller at the Knapp Center on Jan. 4.

Nothing about the Bulldogs (15-6, 5-3) has changed since the previous meeting. Drake relies on vastly-improved center Liam Robbins, a shot-alterer and strong finisher in the paint. The Bulldogs have good shooters in Jonah Jackson, Anthony Murphy and D.J. Wilkins. Most of all? Drake has an excellent point guard in Roman Penn. The first-year Bulldog is averaging 12 points and 6.2 assists per game.

“Savvy is a great word to describe him. When they need a basket? They put the ball in his hands to create one. Seems like a terrific leader. It changes that team. They didn’t have that guy last year and now they have that dynamic point guard,” said Lansing on Penn.

Lansing noted that rematches provide teaching moments for the players as they have direct evidence of the good and the bad they did in the previous matchup. 

Drake’s conference profile is much like ISU’s is. All three of the Bulldogs’ conference losses were on the road. Their only road win was against MVC-winless Evansville — a team ISU hasn’t yet played on the road.

ISU (11-8, 4-4) has not lost at Hulman Center all season.

“I hope we take pride in it. It doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure. I appreciate the crowds we have. They’ve been energetic and hopefully they like the way we’re playing. We have to keep it up. You’re only as good as your last game,” Lansing said.

Drake at ISU

Tipoff — 7 p.m. today at Hulman Center.

Broadcasts — Webstream: ESPN+. Radio: WIBQ-FM (97.9). Twitter: @TribStarTodd.

Series — ISU leads 48-42. ISU lost 80-76 at Drake on Jan. 4.

Last time out – ISU defeated Bradley 61-53 on Saturday. Drake defeated Missouri State 71-69 on Sunday.

The players

Indiana State Sycamores (11-8, 4-4) — G Jordan Barnes (5-11, Sr., 12.2), G Tyreke Key (6-2, Jr., 17.2, 5.1 rpg), G-F Christian Williams (6-5, Sr., 4.6), F Tre Williams (6-7, Fr., 7.9) and F Jake LaRavia (6-8, Fr., 8.7, 5.1 rpg) are possible starters. G-F Cooper Neese (6-4, So., 8.8), F-C Bronson Kessinger (6-8, Sr., 3.7), G-F Cobie Barnes (6-5, Fr., 2.3), G Cam Bacote (6-3, So., 3.2), G De’Avion Washington (6-3, So., 1.4) and G Keon Sellers (6-4, Fr., 0.3) are key reserves.

Coach— Greg Lansing (159-150 at ISU, 10th year).

Drake Bulldogs (15-6, 5-3) — G Roman Penn (5-11, So., 12 ppg, 6.2 apg), G Jonah Jackson (6-3, 210, 6.4), G D.J. Wilkins (6-2, So., 9.8), G Anthony Murphy (6-5, Sr., 9.5, 5 rpg) and C Liam Robbins (7-0, So., 13,5, 6.4 rpg) are possible starters. G Garrett Sturtz (6-3, So., 6 ppg), G Noah Thomas (6-2, Jr., 5.6), F Antonio Pilipovic (6-7, Sr., 3.4) and F Brady Ernst (6-10, Sr., 1.4) are key reserves.

Coach — Darian DeVries (39-16 at DU, 2nd year).

Injuries and absences – For ISU, C Chris Agbo (personal) is out.

Next games — ISU plays at Missouri State and Drake hosts Southern Illinois on Saturday.

Todd Aaron Golden has been Sports Editor and Indiana State beat writer since September 2004. Born in Milwaukee but an Indiana resident most of his adult life, he previously worked in Jeffersonville, Columbus and Eau Claire, Wis.

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