Sequoyah Tahlequah’s Lexy Keys: Basketball Spotlight Presented By BancFirst Tahlequah

Written by Byron Beers, Tahlequah Daily Press

Lexy Keys had the wow factor from the moment she stepped on a basketball court as a freshman for Sequoyah.The gracefulness, the smoothness, the athleticism. She had it all.

Keys had high school basketball in Oklahoma entranced. She still does. Her list of accolades is long and ongoing including a three-time VYPE Top 100 pick. She’s a two-time state champion. She’s a Class 3A State Tournament Most Valuable Player. She’s claimed two in-season tournament MVP awards — at the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-American Classic in Ada and Tri-State Classic in Jay — in her senior season.

The crafty combo guard startled the eyes of many throughout the state over three years ago. She wasn’t your ordinary freshman. She played a big role in helping lead the Lady Indians to the first of back-to-back state titles and earned state tournament MVP honors.

It helped shape her into what she is today. “I had to grow up at a younger age than probably most people did,” said Keys, who was heavily recruited since her freshman year and chose to sign with the University of Texas at Arlington in December. “I had to mature faster with my game, getting more weapons and skills, but it pushed me to be better. Having people look at me differently just made me mature and it’s really helped me out a lot.”

Since, she’s put herself among the greats that have ever suited up for the Lady Indians. She resembles greatness like Angel Goodrich, Lindsey Hammer and Cenia Hayes before her. “She was a state tournament MVP as a freshman and she had a lot of good players around her,” said Sequoyah assistant coach Grant Callison. “The thing that’s impressive to me is she’s been able to kinda adjust from season to season. It’s been different every year for her. The most impressive thing is her ability to adapt.”

Keys played her freshman season with Hayes, who’s been Northeastern State’s top scorer for the past two seasons. It played a huge impact. “I looked up to Cenia a lot,” Keys said. “She helped me be the leader I am today. Watching her talk to people on the team and handle things behind the scene, that’s helped me do that this year. I take a lot of what I do from her.”

“This year’s been different,” Callison said. “It’s been a different role for her. She walked in and had a lot of pups under her that didn’t have a lot of playing time and she took on the full leadership role. She’s going to do whatever you want her to do, whatever you need her to do.”

The impact has been strong. Sequoyah, currently ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, had won its last 14 games and is 17-1 under first-year head coach Justin Brown going into the final month. The Lady Indians’ lone loss came to 6A, top-ranked Tulsa Booker T. Washington in the championship game of the Cherokee Nation Businesses Tahlequah Invitational on Dec. 14.

Keys is among the program’s top career scorers with 1,661 points. She has collected over 400 assists, 400 rebounds and 400 steals in her career. She’s scored 20 points or better 28 times, scored a career-high 31 points twice and connected on 192 3-pointers.

More than anything, she’s become the at-any-cost winner. In three-plus seasons, the Lady Indians have won 95 games and lost just 12 times with Keys on the court. That’s an 88.7 winning percentage. “Lexy’s not afraid to do whatever’s needed,” said Brown, who replaced retired Hall of Fame coach Larry Callison last year. “I think what’s neat about her is that she has a servant’s heart mentality. She loves to help people and she wants to win. Lexy gets more excitement out of making a good pass than she does hitting a big shot. That’s just the kind of kid she is.”

“Some of that is coming from being a coach’s daughter,” Sequoyah assistant coach Jeff Turtle said. “She grew up around all sports whether it’s fastpitch, basketball, anything from her dad. That always helps when you have a kid that’s been coached by a dad or a mom, whoever it is that’s a coach.”

Brown knows a thing or two about coaching next-level caliber players. He had Rylie Torrey, who played at Northeastern State and is currently averaging 13 points as a senior at Oral Roberts, and Madison Davis on his 2014-15 Locust Grove team that won a 4A State Championship. “Those kinds of kids, they’re special,” Brown said. “Lexy is in that group that’s special. Lexy’s good, but she’ll be the first to tell you that the ones around her are good too. Lexy’s the leader on the floor for sure and she gets a lot of the attention, and rightfully so. She works on it and she spends a ton of time in the gym, but she’s got a lot of good kids around her too. This has been a great experience for me. It’s been a good fit.”

Keys and her teammates are looking for redemption after a sour ending last year when they were upset by Christain Heritage in the semifinals of the state tournament.

Keys still remembers. “Honestly, it was shocking,” she said. “It was eye-opening. That was the first time we had lost in the playoffs ever. You’re not used to losing around here, there’s a tradition to win. It made me work harder and I’ve watched that film numerous times. That game has helped me grow as a person and has helped grow as a player.”

Keys is the ultimate winner for a program that lives and breathes championships.