Keffer can score and also lead, to F.S. Key's delight Multi-talented: Junior guard has stepped up her game and Eagles have stepped up their winning, taking four of their first six games.

January 07, 1996|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The day before her team's season opener, Francis Scott Key coach Alice Smith told Nicole Keffer that she expected her to be the team's leader.

Keffer responded the next night by turning in a strong all-around performance in Key's 57-34 romp over North Hagerstown. The 5-foot-7 shooting guard scored 14 points with six rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Keffer has kept right on going, averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game plus 4.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds and three steals to help Francis Scott Key -- winners of only seven games last year -- take four of its first six.

Keffer started for the Eagles last year, being paired in the backcourt with the now-graduated Maureen Ritcey. While playing at point guard, Keffer said she learned a tremendous amount from Ritcey, which prepared her to take over the shooting guard spot this season.

The junior said she knew Smith also would be looking for some leadership as well as points and having a big first game helped her confidence.

"The first game, I wasn't sure," said Keffer. "I knew she was expecting me to pick up a little and be a leader on the court. Playing well that first game let me know it was OK, and I could handle it."

Smith said during the preseason that the Eagles needed someone to take charge and fill the void caused by Ritcey's departure. The coach also said she thought Keffer could be that person.

"I think she's grown throughout the year," said Smith. "There was so much pressure on her last year, and she took the pressure very well. I think she learned so much from that."

While starting for the Eagles last season, Keffer was second on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per game -- behind Ritcey. This season, Keffer, who can shoot from most places on the floor, wanted to help the offense more, not just in points scored but in other ways.

Now Keffer works hard at getting everyone into the offense, trying to find the open player and helping her team get the good shot.

"If we get the whole team involved in our offense, they can't stop us all," said Keffer.

For example, in Key's 70-49 victory over Franklin in the North Carroll tournament 10 days ago, Stephanie Stambaugh had 22 points while Cindy Sheedy and Keffer added 16 each.

"She sees the court very well and works hard to get the other players open and to get them passing the ball," said Smith.

Still, scoring points may be Keffer's biggest function. She started all 22 games last year at point guard, but that position limited her scoring chances.

Keffer is an aggressive offensive player who is not afraid to take it to the basket or look for her shot. Much like her favorite NBA player, Detroit's Grant Hill, Keffer can control things when playing at shooting guard.

"I think shooting guard suits me better," said Keffer. "I have more options."

Improving her game will help Keffer improve her options in the future. She wants to play basketball in college, and, to that end, works year-round on her game.

Keffer attends summer camps and practices at Mount St. Mary's when possible. Smith said Keffer often stays after Key's practices to practice her shooting or some other part of her game.

"She's definitely, in my eyes, the captain on the court," said Smith. "She's definitely the leader out there."

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