Those 5 a.m. shooting and workout sessions paid off for Keegan Hyland of South Portland. Hyland made a verbal commitment Tuesday night to play basketball at Gonzaga University.

Since his sophomore year, Hyland, a 6-foot-3 senior, has risen early and headed to Southern Maine Community College in South Portland to work on shooting and dribbling.

The recruiting process for Hyland, the Red Riots’ all-time leading scorer, was delayed because of his recovery from a hairline fracture of the pelvic bone. Hyland was sidelined for all but the last three games of the season.

But Gonzaga, a Division I school in Spokane, Wash., needed a freshman shooting guard and the program found out about Hyland through Internet scouting sites.

“Gonzaga called during the season and left a message after practice,” said Hyland.

“It certainly surprised me. We talked for a month or two. It’s always been my goal to play at the highest level in college. That’s what I’ve been working for. Gonzaga is at the highest level. They’re in the top 25 every year. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Hyland also was in contact with Davidson, Penn State, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt and Providence. Vermont and Boston University offered scholarships early on.

Hyland was set to attend Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., for a year before Gonzaga got serious.

Despite Hyland’s injury, Gonzaga remained interested and three weeks ago, assistant coach Ray Giacoletti watched Hyland in an individual workout. He went to the Hyland home and offered an official visit. Hyland and his father, Tom, then traveled to Spokane.

“We went out a week ago Monday, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday there. I played pickup with the team for two days,” said Hyland.

Gonzaga Coach Mark Few offered Hyland a scholarship and told him to think about it. Hyland didn’t have to think long.

“The only thing holding me back at first was the distance,” he said. “The whole team is like a family. There are several players on the team a long way from home, just like me. Some are from different countries.

“I’ll be so busy with basketball. I’m going to miss Maine and the community. I’m sure my parents will come out once or twice during the season to watch me.”

Gonzaga, which plays in the West Coast Conference, travels East on occasion.

Last year the Zags played Duke at Madison Square Garden and in 2007-08 played Connecticut at the TD Bank Garden in Boston.

Hyland’s injury is close to fully healed. He said he took time off after basketball season to rest. He’s been practicing and working out this spring, and said his workouts will begin to intensify.

Hyland scored 32 points in his final high school game, a Western Class A semifinal loss to Westbrook, and was a finalist for Mr. Basketball.

Hyland, who averaged 27.7 points as a junior, finished as the Red Riots’ all-time leading scorer with 1,110 points.

“I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley.

“Keegan has worked extremely hard. He’s a big-time scorer who can shoot. He’s going to continue to work on his game and will be a nice player for Gonzaga.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]