Keathley has became known for his uptempo fast-paced style of play as a coach. That style was evident during his two seasons at the helm of the East Kentucky Miners franchise as his squads led pro basketball in team scoring. However, he’s also earned the reputation of finding little known or undiscovered talent over the years.
During a 16-game stint with the Colonels, Moon averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game. The emerging professional basketball star suited up for Keathley’s team for a part of the 2004-2005 season, playing alongside former Kentucky Wildcats Anthony Epps and Antwain Barbour along with Luke Whitehead and Jeremy McNeil, among others.
Now, six years, one dozen minor league teams, four NBA Summer League squads and one season in Mexico later, Moon is a solid member of the NBA championship-contending Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Jamario (Moon) is playing really well as of late, he’s averaging about six points and five rebounds per game with Cleveland,” Keathley said. “However, he started three games at the end of the regular-season and had 15, 14 and 15 points in his starting role. He also came up huge in Cleveland’s opening round win, scoring 12 points and blocking two shots. He’s a big-time player who excels at both ends of the court.”
Moon began his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors during the 2007-08 season. During his rookie season, Moon averaged 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Moon played one season and 54 games of another for Toronto before being traded to the Miami Heat. After finishing out the 2007-08 season with Miami, Moon signed with the Cavaliers.
Keathley developed an eye for talent early on in his coaching career. Over the last few seasons, Keathley has had an opportunity to coach NBA-caliber players Jermaine Blackburn and Josh Pace in both Kentucky and Texas. Blackburn and Pace continue to draw interest from multiple NBA franchises.
“I think one of the most exciting parts of coaching on the college or pro levels is going out and finding undiscovered or little known talent,” Keathley confided. “Probably our biggest find as a staff was back in 2004 when I was the head coach of the Kentucky Colonels. My player personnel advisor Brandon Paquin and I were looking for a swing man to replace David Scott, a player of ours who was leaving for overseas. We really try to have a backup plan in case of injuries or players signing contracts elsewhere which is a regular occurrence on this level. We had a young guy who was playing for the Harlem Globetrotters at the time that we were really high on and that was Jamario Moon. He didn’t have any pro experience with the exception of a couple of brief stints, one-to-three games, with a couple of other teams. He really fit the type of mold I looked for at the swing forward position - very athletic, could shoot the ball and could really pass the basketball. Being really good in the open court is what excited me the most about Moon’s game.”
Moon made an immediate impact upon his arrival for the Colonels. In Moon, Keathley saw plenty of high-level pro potential.
“I knew immediately that Jamario was an NBA-type talent,” Keathley said. “Having him and Antwain Barbour on the wings made my job pretty easy. He ended up averaging about 15 points and nine rebounds a game for us. Looking back, he had the talent and ability then; I think what he was lacking at the time was the killer instinct.”
In addition to the ABA and NBA D-League, the much-traveled Moon has logged minutes in various leagues, including the USBL, WBA and CBA. Moon averaged 18.8 points in 44 games for the CBA’s Albany Patroons and former NBA All-Star turned coach Michael Ray Richardson during the 2006-07 campaign, one season before Keathley guided the East Kentucky Miners franchise during its debut season in the same league. He was named a CBA All-Star and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year that season.
“I think Moon having the opportunity to play for Michael Ray Richardson in Albany helped him understand what NBA coaches and scouts were looking for,” Keathley said, looking back at Moon’s run with the Albany Patroons. “Michael Ray is a former NBA All-Star, so he knows what it takes. I’ve coached in many games against Coach Richardson over the last two to three years and the one thing his teams do is play hard for 48 minutes. They will defend on and off the ball. I think Jamario took from that and became a complete player under Coach Richardson.”
When he tunes in to a Cleveland Cavaliers game, Keathley watches proudly as he sees a former player donning a No. 15 jersey and performing in the NBA.
“I’m very happy for Jamario and what he has been able to accomplish,” Keathley added. “I don’t take any credit for his success or anything like that, but I do feel we opened the door for everyone to see what type of player he was, he got to showcase his talents for more than a couple of games. It took a team taking a strong look at him and letting him play in more than a couple of games and we did that with the Colonels. After the 2005 season concluded, I spoke with the Arkansas Rimrockers of the NBA-D League the night prior to their draft. I urged then head coach Joe Harge to take a look at him in one of the early rounds. Coach Harge agreed he was well worth the draft pick and drafted him the next day. I don’t think he lasted very long with the Rimrockers but it continued to move him towards the NBA.”
Keathley feels Moon deserved the opportunity he got to catch on and play in the NBA.
“Off the court, Jamario is a very good guy,” Keathley said. “He was always a laid back young man who was easy to get along with. I’ve told this story many times, one morning before practice, Jamario surprised me with four tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game for my family. He deserves all the success he’s having in the NBA right now with Cleveland. I’m rooting for Jamario, LeBron and Shaq to win it all. It’s amazing to even say that – Jamario in the same sentence with Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. It just goes to show you if you work hard enough and believe in yourself, nothing is out of reach.”
Is there another Keathley-coached player bound for the NBA? Could be. But for now, Keathley is content to watch and root for Jamario Moon as his former player and teammates in Cleveland compete for an NBA title.
“I know Jamario still talks about how difficult his times were – chasing his basketball dream,” Keathley said. “On different occasions he has brought up the Kentucky Colonels as a reference to his struggle. There were times the owner of the team would hand out paychecks a few days late and all of us would rush to the bank to make sure it cleared. It became an ongoing joke amongst us as a team. I know his journey hasn’t been easy and that’s what makes his success even more special. I’m just really proud of what he’s accomplished and the adversity he’s overcome. For a guy to go from playing in the Louisville Gardens and making 500 dollars a week to now making almost three-million dollars a year and competing for an NBA championship with two of the great players of the game is a great story to watch unfold.”