Feb. 10, 2011
by Nick McWherter, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
During her time here at Michigan State, senior forward Kalisha Keane has contributed to the team in many more ways than just statistical achievements. Keane has molded into a variety of roles in each of her four seasons on the court, but her most important and significant position has been as a leader and motivator. Keane has accredited much of her leadership skills to the classroom and the techniques she has learned while pursuing a degree in psychology.
"The biggest thing that I learned was differentiation," Keane said. "You can't really approach everybody in the same way, because people will respond to different things differently."
When first arriving at Michigan State her freshman year, Keane described herself as nervous and soft spoken. Though she was shy, she became friends her teammate and roommate Cetera Washington from the beginning. "We hit it off right away when I first got here to campus. It is a funny story because I came from Russia and I was all dazed out," Keane said. "She is really the first one that took to me and worked with me through my quiet phase."
That initial friendship later evolved into a mutual confidence between the two forwards. Washington was the one who dubbed Keane `Big Shot Kal' because of her ability to make clutch shots with the game on the line. The assertiveness of her teammates has allowed Keane to remain calm on the biggest of stages, and throughout her career she has stepped up when her team needed it most.
Keane has not been a stranger to big shots; as a freshman in the quarterfinals of the WNIT Keane hit a three-pointer with just seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. MSU went on to win the game and advanced to the finals against Marquette.
Just this year Keane was the one who delivered the dagger against Iowa at home after sinking a three with less than a second remaining, giving the Spartans the 63-60 win. In Madison, facing the Badgers, Keane stepped up and sent the game into overtime with yet another three, with 14 seconds remaining. The Spartans went on to win the game in overtime lead by 28 points from Keane.
Keane acknowledged that preparation for those situations in workouts and practices has been critical to her poise late in games. "Just knowing that I can knock it down and that my teammates are going to make good passes," Keane said. "It just means a lot knowing they have the confidence in me, that I can go out there and knock it down for them."
The confidence shared between her and her teammates has allowed a treasured bond and special relationship with the team. Adversity is something that Keane has had to manage throughout her basketball career. However, she faced a much tougher challenge this offseason when both of her parents fell ill. Keane turned to her teammates and coaches for support when the news emerged.
"My teammates are really here for me and have really supported me through that time. It just made me appreciate what I have here so much and appreciate them as a family so much more," Keane said.
Keane plays with such pride and tenacity that she has even impacted teammates that she has not played with this season. Freshman center Madison Williams is redshirting this season, but recently told coach Suzy Merchant that Keane has been the biggest inspiration to her. Keane has a distinct personality and demeanor on the court, and with that comes the ability to influence others.
"Sometimes it can be taken that I am too serious at times, and overly emotional," Keane said. "As long as I know that I am playing with passion and I can instill that in other people, to love what they are doing, and bring out the best in them."
Senior night is looming and Keane will undoubtedly go down as one of the best players at MSU. She has twice shared the designation as the team's Most Valuable Player and was the first Spartan to be named the Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year. Just recently Keane was named to the 2010-11 State Farm Wade Watch List, announced by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The list includes 32 nominees for most outstanding NCAA Division I women's basketball player of the year.
"Every time I start thinking about senior night I get a little emotional about it. It has been a great four years; I can say that I have really grown a lot as a person," Keane said.
Keane looks forward to using that personal growth in the future when she hopes to pursue a career in basketball after graduation. After that, she plans to stay around the sport and be able to mentor athletes most likely as a coach. But Keane is not finished here at MSU just yet; she still has hopes of giving back to the fans and the program in the form of championships.
"We have spoke about it a lot as a unit, just being able to get some hardware here," Keane said. "Because all four years we have had the teams that have been able to do it, to follow through with it and put a banner in the stands for our fans and for each other would be a great thing and opportunity."
Inspiration is one of Keane's most distinctive attributes; on the court and off she has the ability to encourage and energize her teammates. These traits will be vital to her as she continues her career in basketball.
"If I can personally be successful that is great, but if I can motivate others to be the best that they can be, that is one of my biggest goals," Keane said. "That is why I want to go into coaching; you can really change somebody's life by being a good coach. Not just through basketball, but making them a better person."