After almost two years in Tallahassee, Florida, Keith Chesley speaks with a slight Southern drawl. You hear Chesley speak, and have to remind yourself he grew up in Clinton, Maine, not on the Florida panhandle.

But when he talks about basketball, it doesn’t matter if Chesley draws out his vowels, or rolls his R’s in traditional New England fashion. The accent doesn’t matter. Basketball is Chesley’s language.

Chesley recently competed his second season as a graduate assistant coach at Florida State University. He was there for every step of the Seminoles season, including the team’s run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division I tournament. Chesley will soon complete the work for a master’s degree in sports management, after which he hopes to find a full-time job coaching in a Division I basketball program.

“I’d love to continue to coach. It’s a tough field to get into. The next step is director of basketball operations or video coordinator,” Chesley said.

Chesley’s mentors at Florida State are confident he will succeed in his chosen field.

“Keith and I talked about that the other day. I don’t see Keith having a lot of problems advancing in college basketball, because he works hard,” Stan Jones, Florida State’s associate head coach, said.

When asked how he ended up at Florida State, working for head coach Leonard Hamilton, Chesley undersells his efforts.

“I got really lucky,” Chesley said. “I knew I wanted to coach. I’m passionate about it.”

Throughout the summer of 2015, before his senior year at the University of Maine-Augusta, Chesley worked summer basketball camps at the University of Virginia, Duke, and Lehigh. He networked, and when he got home, Chesley continued his job search.

“I honestly emailed every Division I school,” Chesley said.

Chesley emailed head coaches, assistant coaches, and directors of basketball operations. He never received a response from most. Some, either with small college or New England roots themselves, replied with words of advice and encouragement, but no offers to interview for a job came.

After his senior year, Chesley hit the road again, this time working summer camps at the University of Texas, Florida State, and Virginia. This time, the networking paid off, and Chesley was offered a graduate assistant position with the Seminoles.

“In his two years, Keith has been terrific. You never know how these guys will do, especially when they come from a small school like Keith, but he adapted quickly,” Jones said.

Chesley’s job entails a little of everything. He’ll break down film with the coaching staff, or he’ll work on scouting reports, or he’ll simply rebound basketballs at practice.

“It’s not the same every day. You meet new people and talk basketball every day,” Chesley said. “It’s what I thought it would be like. I get to pick (the coaches’) brains and talk basketball.”

Chesley went to Florida State after a dynamic playing career at UMA. Chesley overcame six surgeries, first to correct osteochondritis dissecans (or OCD), a condition that affects blood flow to joints, in middle school, then lower back surgeries in high school. He left UMA as the men’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,119 points, and joined Deon Cheers as the only players in school history with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

“Keith is one of the most committed and hard-working student athletes I’ve ever seen. Most of all, he’s just ambitious,” Jennifer Laney, UMA athletic director and women’s basketball coach, said.

Laney pointed to Chesley’s ability to become one of the top rebounders in the Yankee Small College Conference as proof of his determination. Laney said she saw that same work ethic when Chesley worked for the UMA athletic department. As much as Chesley has worked, nothing prepared him for the grind of a deep run in the NCAA tournament. As the Seminoles continued to win, Chesley’s job entailed a little of everything, from making sure the team had lunch to drawing up plays and helping assistant coaches prep and scout the next opponent.

“Not much sleep,” Chesley said when asked to describe his tournament experience. “Coach Hamilton does a great job keeping our guys fresh. It’s a quick turnaround.”

The No. 9 seed in the West region, Florida State opened the tournament with a 67-54 win over No. 8 Missouri. The Seminoles followed that with a 75-70 upset over No. 1 Xavier. That win gave Florida State a measure of revenge, since Xavier knocked the Seminoles out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32 last season.

“We were definitely excited for the opportunity to play Xavier. It was nice to win and avenge last season’s tourney loss,” Chesley said.

In the Sweet 16, Florida State pulled off another upset, this time knocking off No. 4 Gonzaga, last season’s runner-up, 75-60.

“It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of energy, a lot of excitement,” Chesley said.

The Seminoles’ run ended with a 58-54 loss to Michigan last Saturday. Chesley said he and the coaches are proud of the way the team played hard throughout the game.

“They were resilient. They never gave up. They cared for each other and it showed in their play,” Chesley said.

With his two seasons at Florida State coming to an end, Chesley said the biggest things he learned working from Hamilton is managing all the personalities and turning a diverse group into a team. Togetherness and family are as important to a successful program as X’s and O’s.

“It’s an easy game, but it’s all about how you can manage the preparation,” Chesley said. “Especially at this level. Every team is talented. It’s not a bad idea to keep it simple.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM