Auburn defeated Gardner-Webb 80-55 Wednesday night inside Auburn Arena, however, the best story of the night came after the game.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl awarded four-year walk-on Patrick Keim with a scholarship in the locker room following the Tigers' win, rewarding Keim for his four years of loyalty to the Auburn program.
"We've known for a while that we were going to honor Pat Keim with a scholarship," Pearl said during his postgame press conference. "I asked the players, prior to making the announcement, what are some of the characteristics of this team? What's the personality of this team? They talked about some issues as far as character, and loving one another and forgiving one another and handling adversity; a lot of different things that we've been through. I said that's exactly right, and there's not a player in this locker room that embodies those characteristics more than Pat Keim."
Keim, a Birmingham, Alabama native, won back-to-back state championships at Mountain Brook High School in 2013 and 2014. He won 111 games as a four-year starter at Mountain Brook, and was named All-State Second Team his senior season.
"Pat could have very easily finished up after his first year (at Auburn)," Pearl said. "He got a taste of it. He played a lot of meaningful minutes when were first getting started. He wanted to be able to say, at the end of the day, that he got to play college basketball. He was such a great player at Mountain Brook. And he really was done. And I asked him to give some thought to this.
"Pat's a great minister. The Church of the Highlands is his home. He does a phenomenal job spreading the good news and living it. He walks the walk and he talks the talk. He's saving kids all the time. He leads by example, he wears it on his sleeve."
"I said Pat, don't leave now," Auburn's fourth-year head coach said. "This is your ministry right here. Look at the guys that we have in this locker room. Look at where some of them got started, look at the challenges that they have had while they were at Auburn. I said, 'I need you. I need you to continue to minister this team.' And selflessly, he stayed on. And now, of course, he's on a good team that's playing well. And he's an important part of it."
Keim is the lone senior on the Auburn team this season. With a team full of underclassmen, Keim is the only player to have played all four seasons at Auburn with Pearl at the helm.
“I appreciate you guys, seriously," Keim said to his teammates in the locker room. "The only thing I want at Auburn is to give you guys the opportunity to win. I want to give each and everyone of you life. Maybe you went through some hard times, but maybe Auburn, maybe me, maybe the scout team can help you go farther than that. That’s why I’m here. I love you guys. I’m here for y’all, even when I leave. I love you guys.”
Keim has scored 21 points in 40 games in his four-year career at Auburn. He has knocked down 5-of-18 three-point attempts to go along with 19 rebounds and 10 assists.