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Kevin Keatts completes staff with Arizona State assistant Joel Justus

Looks like a pretty strong addition.

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kevin Keatts is filling the vacancy left on his coaching staff by the departure of James Johnson with Joel Justus, who spent the past season as an assistant at Arizona State. Prior to his time with the Sun Devils, he spent he spent seven years working for John Calipari at Kentucky.

Coincidentally, Justus is a UNC-Wilmington alum, though he was there well before Keatts’ time. Played for Brad Brownell, in fact. Justus has a good reputation as a recruiter and Calipari had plenty of praise for him when he left Lexington.

I found this part of his bio interesting as well:

A 2004 graduate of UNC Wilmington, Justus joined the [Kentucky] staff for the historic 2014-15 season as the director of analytics. Using his analytics, Kentucky’s players bought in to a two-platoon system that helped the Wildcats become one of the most efficient teams in the country, including the most dominant defensive team in recent history, as UK became the first team in college basketball history to start a season 38-0.

He analyzed player and team performance, utilizing various stats and data to help develop efficient strategies through video. He developed tools that streamlined the decision-making process of the coaching staff using advanced statistical modeling and analysis. He also analyzed large data sets to aid the coaching staff’s scouting reports as well as postgame analysis. He assisted in day-to-day operations of the program, which included coordinating with NBA personnel while assisting in many areas of basketball operations.

A more analytics-heavy approach is welcome, and that should be something that NC State is always leaning into—we need whatever edge we can find. If Justus can offer a fresh perspective or five on that front, all the better.

But his recruiting acumen is probably more important in the near term, and Keatts has clearly put an emphasis on that in rebuilding his staff. Maybe it proves too little too late, but the changes he’s made look at least on the surface like clear improvements. We’ll see.