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Canadian shooting guard Saunders picks Toledo

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Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk and the Rockets landed a big recruit in Orangeville Prep's Keshaun Saunders.

Blade/Katie Rausch Enlarge

Orangeville Prep basketball coach Nate Johnson described his starting shooting guard, Keshaun Saunders, as a home-run hitter.

For the University of Toledo men’s basketball team, Saunders’ recent verbal commitment to the Rockets might be considered a home run on the recruiting trail.

“Keshaun is a very gifted slasher and an excellent shooter,” Johnson said. “The thing he does really well is he’s a home-run hitter. He’s someone who is never afraid to take those big shots, and he kind of relishes those opportunities and really being in the big moments as well.”

Coming from a prep program in Brampton, Ontario, which has produced NBA players such as Jamal Murray and Thon Maker, Saunders was recruited by a mix of midmajor and high-major programs, including Temple, Boise State, Tulane, and Iona before settling on Toledo.

“The recruiting process was really long and to a certain extent it was stressful,” Saunders said. “There were a lot of schools that were calling and basically telling me the same things over and over. They were telling me things I didn’t really want to hear. I was kind of stuck in between whether I wanted to be a midmajor player or a high-major player. When I got to Toledo, as soon as I got there, I immediately saw myself fitting in there.

“Part of it was the location. It’s close enough for my family to be able to come and watch my games. The education was appealing, and the team has a good GPA. I trust the coaches to help me get better on and off the court, and I felt like it would just be a great opportunity for me to thrive.”

Johnson, who has coached plenty of Division I talent at Orangeville Prep, projects Saunders as an all-conference performer in the Mid-American Conference. He believes that Saunders and Toledo are a perfect match.

“He found the perfect fit for him, and his style of play with a coaching staff which is phenomenal,” Johnson said. “It’s an area and a school that is deep in tradition for basketball. I honestly think it’s the perfect fit, and I’m excited he found a situation that is ideal for him.”

Saunders said he immediately bonded with Toledo players such as Taylor Adway and Marreon Jackson on his visit, and he thinks his style of play will blend in well with his teammates next season.

“I can score the ball and I can play multiple positions,” Saunders said. “I’m a two-way player, and when the ball is moving I have a lot of fun. I’m a high energy guy that plays with a lot of passion and emotion.”

Saunders, at 6 feet, 5 inches and about 195 pounds, said he hopes to improve his strength and physicality before he comes to Toledo. Johnson hopes Saunders continues to evolve with his decision making.

“The big thing is just making good decisions,” Johnson said. “It’s never been a question of talent with Keshaun. It’s just always been making sure he stays focused on making the easy play. He’s done really well and he’s really matured in that aspect. But like any young player, it’s something they all have to work on.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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