In today’s world, adolescent athletes are often pressured into specializing in a single sport instead of participating in multiple sports at the high school level. Keith Rendleman, a 6-8 athlete from Denver, N.C. was no different. However, Rendleman went on to excel in football, basketball and track at East Lincoln High School.
Today, Rendleman is a senior at UNCW in Wilmington, N.C. and one of the greatest Seahawk basketball players of all-time. But, the standout forward was originally a highly touted football recruit out of East Lincoln back in 2009.
“I was originally leaning more towards playing football [in college],” Rendleman said. “A lot of the bigger schools on this side of the country were looking at me for football. Honestly, the majority of my basketball coaches thought I was going to play football in college.”
At the time, that thought process was considered the norm, as Rendleman was an extremely talented wide receiver for the Mustangs. With his tall and athletic build, he had tremendous speed and leaping ability on the outside and down the field. Local papers often praised his skillset and on-the-gridiron accomplishments as well. In fact, he was a three-time All-Gaston Gazette football selection and was on the Lincoln Times-News All-Area 1st Team as a wideout.
“Name a school on the East Coast and I probably got [recruiting] letters from them,” Rendleman says of his football touting. “I visited Duke around three times. I was recruited by Clemson, Tennessee among others.”
But, despite the appealing football offers, Rendleman’s first love was always basketball—even though he was a more sought-after football recruit. At the end of it all, he forwent an opportunity to compete at the highest level of college football and accepted a scholarship offer from a mid-major school in his home state to hoop.
“The coaching staff was a big part of my decision [to come to UNCW],” Rendleman said. “They were at my school on the very first day of recruiting. They showed me how much they really wanted me. The players were really great on my visit, too. Being near the beach was another great perk, also.”
A storied basketball program in the Colonial Athletic Association, UNCW seemed like the perfect fit for Rendleman’s collegiate career. After all, the Seahawks had won the CAA tournament and appeared in the NCAA tournament in four of the previous 10 seasons before Rendleman arrived on campus—an impressive feat by a mid-major school.
“I heard so much about the history of the program,” Rendleman reflected. “I know that [UNCW] was one of the highest-profile programs in the CAA.”
Unfortunately for Rendleman, the Seahawks’ success turned sour with the turn of the decade and the athletic department even fired Rendleman’s first head coach, Benny Moss, midway through his rookie year. Overall, the Seahawks have compiled a 42-81 record in Rendeman’s four years in Wilmington. But, that never stopped the big man from leading his team and ultimately developing the reputation as one of the hardest working players in the conference.
“It’s definitely been discouraging at times,” Rendleman said of his team’s struggles. “But, instead of looking it as a downfall, I’ve looked at it as a great learning experience. I just went out there and gave it my all every day.”
And learn he did. From entering the program as an inexperienced freshman, who tried to contribute for 20 minutes per game, the scrapper ultimately blossomed into a dynamic scorer, a tenacious rebounder and a consistent force on the defensive end. Rendleman’s most impressive skill, his rebounding ability, reveals the young man’s heart and passion that he plays with on the court, as the art of crashing the glass is something only few have a true knack for.
Even as his team was ruled ineligible for the CAA tournament this season due to a poor APR last year, Rendleman came out with even more of a fire this season, and the CAA and UNCW record books fell victim to the accomplished veteran.
Now that his career is officially over at UNCW, Rendleman finished in the top five in career scoring, steals and blocked shots in the program’s history. Most impressively, he will leave Wilmington this spring as the all-time leading rebounder in program history as well—and fifth all-time in CAA history.
“When I got here, I wasn’t looking to break any records,” Rendleman said. “It was something that just came up this year. To walk out and see my hard work pay off is really great. Having a seven-foot wing span definitely helps me out. I also have a knack for the ball. When a shot goes up, it helps to know where the ball is most likely going to come off the rim, too.”
The senior, who will likely earn a spot on the All-CAA 1st Team at the conference’s award banquet on Friday, now says he’s hoping to use that rebounding ability at the professional level as well. But, his leadership is a characteristic that Rendleman’s coach, Buzz Peterson, praises to be another one of his strong suits.
“He’s kept everybody together and done a tremendous job,” coach Buzz Peterson said. “I hope one day we can honor his jersey. He’s been fun to coach.”
With 1,516 points, 1,055 rebounds and 142 blocks career blocks to Rendleman’s name, the forward, who also has the ability to step outside and knock down shots form three-point range, could be considered as one of the greatest players in CAA history. That type of pedigree has Rendleman in position to make a career and living out of the game of basketball, a very impressive feat for someone who was once a highly-touted football prospect.
Rendleman is now expected to enter his name into the 2013 NBA Draft. Being drafted would certainly be considered, a touchdown.