Just 128 miles North of Viejas Arena is Fairfax High School.
In 2019, Fairfax had a senior guard who held offers from Washington State, TCU, and SDSU. After taking official visits to the schools, he decided to go to become an Aztec. When he enrolled at the school in August 2020, it was another reminder that SDSU has grown into one of the premier programs in college basketball.
The Fairfax Guard, of course, was none other than Keith Dinwiddie Jr. During his senior year at Fairfax, Dinwiddie was the heart and soul of a 27-win team and played both guard positions. He had other offers from Fresno State, UC Santa Barbara, TCU, and Washington State. Dinwiddie even garnered Marquette’s interest before deciding to head South.
Keith is on a successful track, especially with a program as storied as the Aztecs. Dinwiddie fits right in with a program annually filled with talented recruits and prospects and frequents the NCAA Tournament on a near-annual basis. The talented guard finished his final high school year with the 2020 John Wooden Award LA-City CIF Player of the Year. A three-star recruit, he fell right into the hands of the talented Aztecs’ coaching staff, which compiled a loaded 2020 recruiting class. Dinwiddie and fellow sophomore Lamont Butler Jr. were pegged as SDSU’s backcourt of the future. However, it was Butler who saw much more time than Dinwiddie in year one.
“Just like most people, year one is hard,” Pulliam told EVT. “Just coming into college, learning, and being part of a new program. A lot of stuff matters as far as his game that did not matter before, like defense, knowing your spots and positioning, knowing how to play…Year one is hard, but once you get on track, you start learning what the coaches want and how to play at this level, it becomes a lot easier, and then you can implement your game and what you bring to it. I think that’s the place he’s at right now.
SDSU’s defense is always one of the best in college basketball, and incoming players have difficulty adjusting. Even with years of college basketball experience, Matt Bradley has traveled a steep learning curve since joining the program. Given Bradley’s challenges, Dinwiddie’s adjustment to playing Aztec defense last season is unsurprising.
“(Keith) is a very talented player,” Adam Seiko told EVT in an exclusive interview. “Everyone on the team knows that, for sure. Coming into a program like this, we’re so heavy-handed on defense. There’s a lot of different concepts you’re supposed to learn. He had some trouble learning those concepts in his first year, which is common with most freshmen.”
As a result, Dinwiddie played sparingly during his first year. He participated in just seven games but flashed enough skill to have Aztec nation buzzing about his 2021-2022 season. In his best outing of the year against Air Force, Dinwiddie scored 13 points in only 13 minutes. He also added a pair of assists in the Aztecs’ demolition of the Falcons.
Dinwiddie entered college in one of the strangest times with the entire world dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It prevented the Fairfax guard from fully benefiting from the expertise of SDSU’s coaching staff. With a whole offseason and a second year in Dutcher’s system, Dinwiddie has improved every facet of his game.
“He’s made a huge jump already from last year to this year,” Seiko said. “You can just tell he knows where to be on defense, in the right spots. And when he takes his shot, he’s one of the most confident players on the team, which we need him to be. I know that confidence will keep growing. He’s going to be in the rotation this year, for sure. He plays hard. I can’t wait to see how he does throughout the year.”
The Aztecs sophomore guard has adjusted to the demands of playing college basketball at SDSU. If he has improved enough on the defensive end, Dinwiddie should have an increased role this season. With Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel no longer with the program, the Aztecs have a scoring void that Dinwiddie’s skills should help fill. Specifically, with Mitchell and Schakel in the professional ranks, there is a lack of outside shooting. SDSU will need to replace some of it to keep teams honest in the pick and roll or double-teaming Bradley when he gets the ball. The hope is that Dinwiddie can provide a spark off the bench, help spread the court out on offense, and take a step learning to play within the “freedom inside the framework” mantra that encapsulates Brian Dutcher’s system.
“The way he can shoot the ball is a God-given ability,” Pulliam explained. “It’s kind of a Jordan Schakel type of thing. Every team needs a great shooter. (Keith) being able to shoot the ball at the level he does, the way he does, we need that from him.”
Dinwiddie spent the summer working hard on his craft, and it has paid off as his teammates have raved about the improvements in his game. He also headed to the Swish ProAm along with other Aztecs and had a terrific showing.
— Swish Pro-Am League (@SwishProAm) July 16, 2021
“He has the ability to shoot the basketball. That’s one of his greatest strengths,” Assistant coach Chris Acker told EVT, echoing the same sentiments. “He should play to those strengths and play with confidence…Make open shots. That’s his role. That’s what he’s going to be relied on to do, and then, like everybody else, he’s going to have to guard and take care of the basketball as well. His role specifically is going to be to make open shots.”
The Aztecs will need Dinwiddie to take a massive jump his sophomore season with their eyes set on returning to the NCAA Tournament— and hopefully, making a deep run.
Aggressiveness. Scorer. Those two words have described Keith Dinwiddie’s attitude on the court since his days at Fairfax High. Adding a third, “Defender,” is all he needs to become an impact player for SDSU. He has huge fans in Seiko, Pulliam, and Acker, who believe he has already made the necessary adjustments. The benefits the Aztecs could reap with Dinwiddie at his best are enormous. He is being counted upon to help the team make another run towards Mountain West Conference supremacy.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Keith Dinnwiddie and Spencer Dinnwiddie were brothers.