Keegan Hyland could always get buckets.

He scored 1,110 points at South Portland High despite missing nearly all of his senior season. Injuries dogged him that year, and kept him from getting on the court in his one year at Gonzaga and both of his winters at Fairfield.

Now a 22-year-old senior at Division II Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, he’s finally healthy and filling up baskets like the old days. Hyland is averaging 19.5 points per game for the Falcons and clearly enjoying his sport again.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and even a little taller,” said the 6-foot-4 guard. “I can kind of take people to the rim a lot easier and shield them off. I still think I’m not where I’d like to be completely shooting the ball from the perimeter. In high school I was a little ahead of where I am right now.”

Hyland scored a career-high 31 points in November against Holy Family. Earlier this month he won Northeast-10 Conference player of the week after scoring 28 and 25 points in a pair of wins for the Falcons, who are 7-5.

The scoring isn’t the big surprise, it’s the other aspects of Hyland’s game he never developed before. He’s proven to be a terrific defensive rebounder on an undersized team that needs that, averaging 6.3 boards per game.

Those who watched him in high school are going to be shocked by this, but Hyland also has become a proficient passer, picking up 3.8 assists per game. He had eight in one game this season and immediately got a call from a friend back home.

“He said, ‘I don’t think you had eight assists in all of high school,’ ” Hyland said with an easy laugh. “It’s a good feeling to be more diverse. I kind of surprised myself just on the front of how well-rounded my other parts of the game are.”

The passing has been crucial because Bentley’s point guard, Alex Furness of Wells, missed seven games with a shoulder injury. Hyland showed an ability to drive hard to the basket, draw defenders and find open teammates. Bentley has three other Mainers on its roster – freshman Nick Burton of Falmouth, junior Tyler McFarland of Rockport (second on the team at 19.1 points per game) and senior Andrew Shaw of Saco.

Hyland’s long-delayed college career actually began last winter when he appeared in 20 games for Bentley, averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while shaking off the rust. He will complete his undergraduate degree in finance this spring and then work on an MBA while exhausting his eligibility next year.

Sitting out for so long was agonizing, Hyland admitted, though he never contemplated quitting the sport.

“During those three years in college when I was bouncing around and hurt, I was pretty much not in a good place with basketball,” he said. “For a while I was just sick of it. When you care about something so much and it gets taken away, and still I had to be around it every day at practice, standing there. It’s a torturous thing. That’s the beauty of finally being healthy. I’ve been able to reawaken my love for the game.”

His coach, Jay Lawson, is thrilled to see such a talented player finally get to display it.

“The story is a crazy story but it’s far from over yet,” Lawson said. “I want him to relax and enjoy the sport.”

He also wants Hyland to be a better defender. That’s been the biggest challenge because he was never asked to do that before. Bentley plays a switching man-to-man defense. As terrific as Hyland has been on offense, guarding quicker players remains a struggle.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s been a natural scorer all his life. In high school he was probably more concerned about staying out of foul trouble,” Lawson said. “It’s not lack of effort or lack of athletic ability. He just didn’t get to have the exposure of learning all of this during his freshman year of college.”

Hyland joked that he’s the kind of defensive player he would like to face. If it was Hyland vs. Hyland, he’s pretty sure it would be a high-scoring affair.

“I think I could score against myself pretty well,” he said. “But I’m kind of the makeup where I feel like I can score against most people well.

“I just didn’t play a lot of defense when I was growing up. I was focused on offense, put a hand up and get the ball and try to outscore the other guy. The one thing I did well, I got steals, but just because it led to more offense. I definitely feel like I’m making strides. If it’s going to help us win more games, I’m going to be studying it.”

The biggest challenge for coach and player has been agreeing on when practice should end. Lawson said he’s constantly telling Hyland to stop shooting long after everyone else has left the court.

“I’m trying to teach him balance. I think he’s listening very well,” Lawson said.

Hyland agreed, more or less.

“I just love being in the gym and I love trying to get better. I haven’t felt this good with my body since high school,” Hyland said.

“It’s a fun battle. Sometimes I’ll sneak in there. He does keep the balls in his office, but I do have one in my room so I can kind of get around it a little bit.”

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