Lorenzo Keeler hired to coach Escondido High basketball

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Lorenzo Keeler, the player with perhaps the biggest shot in Escondido High basketball history, has been named the school’s head coach.

Keeler succeeds Paul Baldwin, who has won 379 games in 23 years as the Cougars’ head coach.

In the 2002-03 Division II Championship game at Cox Arena in San Diego State, Keeler passed an in-bounds pass with half a second left.

He took a dribble and landed a long baseline jump to beat Helix 60-59.

“I remember that shot like it was yesterday,” Keeler said. “We have emerged from a dead time. I pretended to the left, went to the baseline and Matt Coleman hit me with a perfect pass.

“I shot, but I was fouled on the play. I was on the ground. Never seen the blow. The roar of the crowd told me he had entered.

“I was on two CIF Championship teams and I want to meet the Cougars there.”

Keeler has spent the last two seasons as an assistant in Baldwin’s squad.

“With COVID and everything, it’s been a weird year,” Keeler said. “It was a year of reconstruction (8-14), but it was good for me because I was able to learn the administrative things that a coach needs to know.

“Basketball isn’t just what you know on the floor.”

CIF Player of the Year following the 2003-04 season, Keeler initially committed to playing at San Diego State and then San Jose State, but ended up at Cal Poly after a year in preschool.

In three seasons at Cal Poly, he averaged 13.1 points in 88 games, including an average of 16.2 as a senior in 2009-10.

He played six years professionally, mainly in the Latin National Professional Basketball League.

“I always imagined myself staying in the game,” said Keeler, 35. “And I saw myself as a coach. Playing at university, playing professionally in Spain and Uruguay, I worked with a lot of coaches. I picked up things at all levels.

“But Coach Baldwin is such a great person, such a great man, such a great coach. I’m so lucky to be with him and soak up things.

Baldwin said: “I trust Lorenzo with my baby. I recommended him for the job so I’m excited. He will fight like all young first year coaches, but he will do it.

Keeler said he had job offers in the Riverside area, but resisted for Escondido’s job.

“This is where I want to coach,” Keeler said. “I see the game differently from others.

“The game isn’t just about Xs and Os. It is about throwing sets so that your shooters are in a position to shoot, so that your attackers are in a position to attack the basket.

“Coach Baldwin did a great job preparing me. I want to hang another championship banner here.

Another follower of Baldwin

Justin Bell, another Baldwin player at Escondido, is now the head coach of Santa Margarita.

Santa Margarita finished the season 17-6, defeating Bullard (56-44), Rolling Hills (52-44) and Crean Lutheran (66-53) to win the Southern California Regional Division 2A championship.


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