The junior has already committed to Arizona State after a sophomore season that saw her average 15.7 points and 10.0 rebounds.
Mom envisioned her in Air Jordan sneakers and Nike sweats.
Daughter insisted on dance shoes and glittery outfits.
Keeli Burton-Oliver was all girlie girl as a kid with a love of dance, music, gymnastics and horseback riding – just about anything but basketball, her Mom’s passion.
Cindi Jensen (now Oliver) was a gym rat growing up, starring at Sammamish High School (class of 1995), Ventura College and later UTEP and Seattle Pacific as a 6-foot shooting guard. She imagined a mini-me when Keeli was born.
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The first pair of Air Jordans she brought home were met with a stern, “Mommy, those are boys shoes!”
Today, Keeli’s closet (and bedroom) are full of them, some 60 pairs and counting.
“Now she’s a sneaker-head,” Cindi said.
And a gym rat in her own right – a standout junior on the third-ranked Eastlake girls basketball team and a regular at the Pacific Courts basketball facility in Newcastle, which her Mom owns and operates with husband Kenan Oliver, a former professional player.
Keeli stands 6-feet-3 and was always tall for her age. Her biological father, Kendrick Burton, is 6-5 and a former NFL defensive end.
Her size wound up derailing her musical/dancing career in fifth grade when she tried out for a role in the production of Annie on Broadway but was cut – “They wanted little orphans,” Cindi said.
“I was really sad after that,” said Keeli, who then started thinking she should maybe focus on an activity where her size was an advantage – such as basketball.
She had played recreationally but told her Mom, “I want to play on a real team.”
Keeli developed quickly in what is now the Tree of Hope organization and this year transitioned to the Northwest Blazers, qualifying for the Adidas national team that played in Italy.
That came after a sensational sophomore year at Eastlake, when she averaged 15.7 points and 10.0 rebounds as the Wolves reached the Class 4A state semifinals before losing in overtime to KingCo rival Woodinville – despite Keeli’s 30 points and 23 boards. She was also an impact player as a freshman (14.5 points, 11.8 rebounds) and has committed to play at Arizona State University.
“Even on a bad night, she gets a double-double,” Eastlake coach Sara Goldie said, “and she’s tough. She gets hung on all over and never complains.”
“I’ve gotten used to it,” Keeli said of the regular contact. “I can’t get upset with things I can’t control.”
But she can get revenge: She might respond to contact with an in-your-face three-pointer. She drained an impressive 25 of 32 shots behind the arc last season.
“Keeli’s presence inside is unlike any other, and her ability to shoot a three makes her so valuable,” said sophomore teammate and good friend Haley Huard, daughter of former UW stars Brock Huard (football) and Molly (Hills) Huard (basketball).
Woodinville coach Scott Bullock says her inside/outside game and size “make her a unique talent.”
“Keeli is always a challenging matchup,” he said.
She thanks her mom for the long-range accuracy.
“She told me the one thing she could teach me was how to shoot threes (rather than post moves),” Keeli said.
The two often played 21, in the driveway or the gym. Cindi never took it easy on her and ultimately paid for that.
“When I finally beat her last year, I didn’t take it easy on her, either,” Keeli said, recalling the blowout that went 36-0 before her mom finally surrendered, then refused to ride home with her.
“I haven’t played her since,” Cindy said, noting they are both ultracompetitive. “I have officially retired.”
Keeli, who has a 3.78 GPA and is interested in sciences, still enjoys music – she regularly sings and dances with her friends – and also has fun teaching basketball skills to younger kids at Pacific Courts. She is close with younger-brother Paul, an eighth-grader who runs cross country, and ultimately hopes to play basketball professionally overseas before going into forensic science, or perhaps orthodontia.
But first, Kelli Burton-Oliver hopes to lead Eastlake back to state, despite some key graduation losses – and continue to add to her collection of sneakers.
5 Other Teams to Watch
Kentridge: A return to the top is possible for the 2017 Class 4A champs, who slipped to fourth place last season after OT quarterfinal loss to Woodinville.
Garfield: Their Class 3A title bid fell just short last season, and the Bulldogs proved they’ll be in the mix again after Friday’s key victory over Seattle Prep
Woodinville: Mia Hughes and Madison DuBois are back after a stellar season that ended just short of a Class 4A state championship.
West Seattle: Experience is a plus for a Wildcat squad that stormed to the semifinals of the Class 3A state tourney last March.
Archbishop Murphy: Emily Rodabaugh looks for an encore – or more – after leading the Wildcats to the Class 2A title game as a junior (earning MVP honors).
5 Other Players to Watch
JaQuaya Miller, Kentridge (6-4, Sr., P)
UW-bound post is quick, nimble, matchup nightmare who welcomes contact and willingly shares the ball, but can take over when necessary
Jordyn Jenkins, Kentridge (6-2, Jr., PF/P)
Jenkins led a loaded Kentridge squad in scoring as a sophomore at nearly 17 points per game with a deadly Euro step and is a major D-1 prospect
Mia Hughes, Woodinville (5-10, So., PF)
Coming off a record freshman season (526 points), the ultra-competitive Hughes has the ability to hit a wide array of shots
Grace Sarver, West Seattle (5-9, Sr., G)
Four-year veteran (and WSU signee) is a great ballhandler and finisher who plays at full speed from whistle to whistle
Dalayah Daniels, Garfield (6-4, Jr., W/P)
A quick, versatile player who makes a difference at both ends of the court and led the Bulldogs to the 3A championship game last season