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The walk-on: Senior guard Max Keenan's story from the bench

By David Holden
On February 6, 2014

  • Josh Hearhily. Courtesy of Tulane Athletics

Senior guard Max Keenan stands toward the end of the bench energizing his teammates with his signature towel wave during most basketball games. If he's lucky, Tulane will have a big enough lead late in the second half and Keenan will receive a few minutes of playing time. That's the life of a walk-on.

Keenan is the heart and soul of the men's basketball team despite the limited time he spends on the court, never afraid to make a joke to improve the team's mood or motivate his teammates during a tough loss on the road.

"I can definitely see when we come out a little flat and it's my job [to get us going,]" Keenan said. "All the coaches talk to me and tell me, 'Get these guys going.' Sometimes it's difficult to get up on the bench and cheer all the time when things aren't going your way. You kind of feel like an idiot sometimes, but you just hope your teammates respond."

Keenan often makes fun of his role on the team.

"I like to go around campus telling everyone I'm the GPA-booster and a glorified cheerleader," Keenan joked.

His walk-on status helps him liven up the locker room, and Keenan is unafraid to poke fun at any of his teammates. Keenan recently grew a chinstrap to mock the chinstraps that sophomore guard Louis Dabney and freshman guard Jonathan Stark sprouted.

"The other night [in front of the team] I was like, 'Do I look like Dabney?'" Keenan said. "I like to pretend to go into The Boot and have all the girls come up to me and say, 'Lou, oh my god, you're so light skinned.'"

Keenan may not get as much playing time as some of the bigger names on the basketball team, but that doesn't intimidate him in the slightest. During practices, Keenan likes to tease some of the starters, especially when he makes a shot in their face.

"In practice, when I'm hitting threes and shooting well, it's always fun for me to give them a little flack because I am the walk-on," Keenan said.

Being a walk-on isn't all fun and games for Keenan, though. Some road crowds will heckle Keenan for his flag-waving antics on the sideline, but he takes it all with a good sense of humor.

"The away crowds are the worst," Keenan said. "I've heard 'How does it feel to pay for your jersey?' I've heard 'waterboy.' They get mad at me for standing up and cheering."

Keenan dishes it right back, though.

"I like to joke with the fans," Keenan laughed. "I'll pretend to sit down, and they all like it. I've actually gotten a couple followers on Twitter from away fans."

Keenan also manages to maintain a 3.85 GPA as an English major while going to all of the road games, practices and weight lifting sessions. Keenan plans to stay a fifth year to get his master's degree, though he isn't sure what his future holds.

"I was hoping that I could [get married] and be a stay-at-home dad," Keenan said.

Despite all the work Keenan has put in with the basketball team, he is still searching for his first two points. Every time Keenan gets in the game all his teammates scream for him to shoot the ball, no matter where he is on the court.

Keenan sometimes wonders what life would be like as a regular student without the responsibility of basketball.

"The grass is always greener," Keenan said. "I think about it a little bit. As a fifth year, I'll get a chance to see what it's like to be away from the team."

Keenan doesn't regret joining the team as a walk-on and, in fact, loves being a part of a Division I basketball program.

"I love basketball," Keenan said. "That's why I'm doing this, and that's why I'm a walk-on."


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