New Dayton assistant coach ranks among Michigan State women’s basketball greats

Kalisha Keane joins staff of Williams-Jeter’s staff after three seasons at Long Island

Kalisha Keane remembers her first UD Arena experience well. On Nov. 13, 2009, she scored four points in 16 minutes for Michigan State in a 77-74 loss to the Dayton Flyers.

The Spartans ranked 10th. That was UD’s first victory over a top-10 team.

“It’s huge to beat a top-10 team,” then Dayton coach Jim Jabir said at the time. “It’s immeasurable. If we had lost by 30, the program would have been set back a decade. We took a chance, and we believed in ourselves and we showed people we could play on a national level.”

Jabir was prophetic because his team reached the NCAA tournament that season for the first time and has been a tournament regular ever since, earning 10 bids in a 13-year span. Keane and Michigan State avenged the loss a season later in East Lansing, beating Dayton 72-64 thanks in part to 23 points from Keane, but that 2009 memory stands out now for Keane because she joined new Dayton coach Tamika Williams-Jeter’s staff in April as an assistant coach and will soon have many new memories at UD Arena.

“I know what it feels like to play in front of those fans,” Keane said Wednesday, “and how loyal they are. They’re loud. They enjoy it. They love it. It’s a cool environment to think about going back into.”

Keane saw UD Arena again during the interview process and was in awe of the renovated facility, which got a three-year, $76.2 million upgrade from 2017-19. She joins assistant coaches Bryce Agler and George Washington on Williams-Jeter’s staff.

“It’s such an awesome opportunity,” Keane said, “and I’m really looking forward to continuing the greatness that’s already been built there. I think there are some awesome things ahead as well.”

Keane, a 6-foot-1 forward, won the Big Ten Player of the Year Award and became the program’s sixth All-American as a senior in 2011 when she averaged 16.1 points per game. She scored 1,553 points in her career and ranks ninth in school history. She then played professional basketball in Croatia, Israel, Turkey, Australia and Slovakia. She didn’t plan to get into coaching, but decided to end her playing career after an ankle injury and had a standing offer from her college coach, Suzy Merchant, to return to Michigan State if she ever decided to coach.

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Two weeks after that ankle injury in 2017, Keane returned to Michigan State to enroll in grad school and join Merchant’s staff.

“It was just an insane whirlwind, but it really changed my life,” Keane said, “and I just fell in love with the preparation side of (coaching). You’re still involved but in a totally different way.”

Keane spent two seasons at Michigan State and then three seasons as an assistant coach at Long Island University, working with head coach Rene Haynes, a fellow Michigan State graduate. The opportunity to work at Dayton was unexpected.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job,” Keane said. “I think my boss was kind of pushing me to move on because she felt like I was ready, and that’s the best feeling ever. She’s a friend of mine. She was my host on my visit to Michigan State. It was kind of like my big sister pushing me out the door a little bit. But I’m super excited to work for Tamika and the staff that she’s put together.”

Williams-Jeter described Keane as an “emerging young star” in college basketball coaching.

“She had a phenomenal career at Michigan State with a versatility on the court that transitions to her coaching style,” Williams-Jeter said in a press release. “She brings an ability to coach forwards, hybrids, and post players because she played that way. She could shoot the 3, and she could bang on the inside. It’s going to be really advantageous to us to bring in positionless players and have someone on staff that’s done it and is coaching it at a high level. She’s a star and the players are going to love her. She has an extremely high basketball IQ. We are so happy to have her here and be a part of our family at Dayton.”

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Keane’s hiring was announced April 28, and she was out on the road recruiting right away. Dayton has lost five players to the transfer portal, most recently junior guard Capria Brown, who entered the portal Monday, according to the website that keeps track of women’s basketball transfers. The program has added three new players since Williams-Jeter was hired — Maryland transfer Taisiya Kozlova, Nayo Lear, one of two 2022 recruits coming to Dayton, and Ohio State transfer Anyssa Jones — and has six scholarships open.

Keane said Dayton’s staff has approached the portal the way most programs have.

“If someone in the portal’s available and it makes sense, it’s always something that you look at,” she said, “but we also are out there watching high-school aged kids. You’ve got to find that right balance. Right now it’s just such a crazy time. There’s so much movement happening. You really have to be diligent in what you’re doing and making sure that you’re finding the right fits.”

Keane is a from Ajax, Ont., near Toronto, and played for the Canadian Senior National Team at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2011 and 2013. She plans to recruit in her home country for Dayton.

“There’s a lot of great Canadian talent,” Keane said. “I would love to have the opportunity to show them Dayton. Getting them to campus is the most important thing and making sure they get an opportunity to see everything that’s being offered to them. It is such an awesome place. But I think even more important than that, it’s the people there that make it so special. I would love to have some Canadian talent on the roster.”

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