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Rapidly improving Ryan Keenan (center, in white) has committed to play for Pepperdine. Photo courtesy of the Woobury Bulletin.

East Ridge center Ryan Keenan makes a living down low. So when it comes to playing college basketball, what better place to post up than Malibu?

Keenan, a senior, stresses that’s not the main reason he is heading to Pepperdine next year, but it’s certainly a nice perk.

“Obviously, it’s Malibu and one of the most amazing college campuses, but I didn’t want that to influence my decision,” Keenan said. “I chose Pepperdine because of the degree I will get there. It’s a great education along with everything else. It’s a special place, regardless of the location, but where Pepperdine is — that’s the icing on the cake.”

Keenan verbally committed to Pepperdine on Nov. 2, the last day of his official visit, and officially signed his national letter of intent on Nov. 14. Keenan said he committed based on compatibility with the Waves program. He felt comfortable with the coaching staff, players and administrators.

Despite his 6-10 size, Keenan moves well up and down the floor. The reliable rebounder and defender is considered a late bloomer, which could prove to be a steal for Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference.

“Ryan Keenan not only grew into his body physically, he became a smart basketball player,” coach Paul Virgin said. “He is unselfish, teachable and is getting stronger every minute he is on the court. His growth rate is exponential and only the sky is the limit to his abilities.”

But first things first: East Ridge wants to continue the success of early last season, but finish strongest when it counts.

The Raptors were an upstart team, putting together a solid regular-season record and earning themselves a No. 2 seed in sections. They might have let high praise get to their head a little bit.

East Ridge was upset by seventh-seeded Rosemount 67-62 in the first game of the Class 4A, Section 3 playoffs.

“We can’t have the mentality we had last year going into sections with the high seed we had,” Keenan said. “We learned from that as a team, and we are confident that we can go places this year.”

The Raptors lost only one starter — Conrad Sexe, now at St. John’s — to graduation. That one spot will be filled by Keenan, who made a big impact off the bench last year.

Sid Thomes has been starting for the Raptors since he was a freshman. Now a junior, he’ll look to take another step in development after a strong summer.

Senior Jake Knupp returns as the floor general. Knupp, the consummate student-athlete, and Thomes make up a veteran backcourt that will score, set up teammates and spark creativity for the Raptors. Brian Ishola, a senior forward, will play basketball at North Dakota State next year.

Together, the veteran team is out to take care of unfinished business.

“We have high expectations, but it’s going to take a lot of work,” Keenan said. “We’re hungry and looking forward to building on the success we had last year. We’re ready to make a lot of noise.”

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