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Trail Blazer: Keljin Blevins reflects on becoming first Montana State Bobcat to play in the NBA

Hard work pays off for Trail Blazer Keljin Blevins, becoming first Montana State Bobcat in the NBA
Posted at 2:46 PM, Jan 08, 2021

BOZEMAN — Two years ago Keljin Blevins was suiting up at Worthington Arena for the Montana State Bobcats.

On Dec. 23, 2020, he made MSU history when he stepped on an NBA court for the Portland Trail Blazers in their game against the Utah Jazz.

"I feel like I’m a pretty humble person, but that just humbled me in the biggest way,” Blevins said.

He was the first former Montana State player to play in a game in the NBA.

“First, just hearing my name called is like, 'It’s really happening,'” said Blevins. "Walking to the table, taking all my stuff off and I’m like, 'I'm really checking into an NBA game.' I get into the game and it’s like just looking around and I step on the court, it’s like, 'I’m really here.' Now that I’m here it’s like the first couple possessions started to feel natural and I was like, 'This is my life now.'"

It’s been quite the journey just to get to this point. The Trail Blazer didn’t have a single scholarship offer coming out of high school. He had to play AAU ball before going to Southern Mississippi and then transferring and redshirting before he played for the Bobcats. He then had to grind last year in the NBA G-League.

“It’s a dog fight," Blevins said of his time in the G-League. "Everybody is there for the same reason, it’s not a secret. Day in and day out, you're going to get everybody’s best.”

He’s now in the NBA playing with his cousin and teammate Damian Lillard.

“(To) have him mentor me and coach me through certain things, it’s amazing,” Blevins said.

However, he attributes his success to his father, James, who passed away, and Lillard's older brother, Houston.

“I wouldn’t be even thinking about where I am today without (Houston)," said Blevins. "Coming out of high school he’s the one that got me on the AAU team that I played for. He got me those offers, he was calling college coaches every single day, just putting my name out there.”

Now in the NBA, it's quite the feeling to share the court with a guy who was his childhood favorite, LeBron James. It was the second game that Blevins played in against the Golden State Warriors when he got his welcome-to-the-NBA moment.

“I got the ball, caught the pass in the paint and I went up for the left-hand layup, I thought I was free and Andrew Wiggins just came out of nowhere and just blocked it off the glass, and I was like, 'OK, these guys are real athletes, these guys are smart -- I got to step it up,'” he said.

Blevins knows that he now can inspire athletes who go to Montana State that they to have a chance to make it to the NBA.

"I feel like it’s huge, it’s definitely a big thing for the program," Blevins said. "For kids just to actually see it and see that it’s not far-fetched and they know that they can go there. I can’t even say I was the best player on my team, but I still did the things that had to be done to be where I’m at."

No matter how long his NBA career lasts, Blevins is thankful to be given the opportunity to play in the NBA.

“It’s just amazing," said Blevins. "It’s a blessing, extremely grateful, extremely thankful to be here where I’m at with the Portland Trail Blazers and I’m loving every minute of it.”