|Keane: The freshman with a veteran mind|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 27 November 2012 16:53|
Hailing from the cold depths of Canada, Kaza Keane anticipated brutal Illinois winters. But as the only freshman on the Illinois State men’s basketball team, he didn’t anticipate a starting role.
“Going in, I had no idea [that I would be starting],” Keane said. “I just kind of came in with the mindset of ‘work as hard as you can and see what happens.’ It’s a lot to take on my shoulders, but I’m happy. It makes me grow up a lot faster and work harder and never take anything for granted.”
While Keane is the only true freshman on the heavily veteran Redbird squad, he has quickly adopted a veteran mindset, which can be attributed to his own competitive nature, along with the mentoring that the experienced players offer.
“On the court, I definitely [look up to] Tyler [Brown], trying to watch his game a lot more in practice and take stuff from him, but everybody that’s kind of older than me — basically everybody that’s on the team — I try and take little things from each person,” Keane said. “Especially for point guard, I try to see how [Anthony Cousin] defends the ball when he’s dribbling.
“Off of the court though, I definitely [look up to] John Wilkins. I kind of took the little brother role under his wing. He’s the person I talk to the most.”
As the youngest and only boy of three children in his family, all of whom are endowed with skills and talent on the hardwood, having a competitive attitude run was a necessity for Keane growing up. His older sisters, Kalisha and Takima Keane, both played college ball at Michigan State and Cleveland State, respectively, and Kalisha Keane even continued her basketball career professionally in Europe.
“I’m going to do what I have to do to win, and that’s always kind of been my mentality growing up, being the youngest in the family,” Keane said. “My sisters were always kind of better than me at basketball, so I always take on the mentality that I’ve got something to prove to everybody.
“Now, [being the youngest on the team], everybody says I kind of have to walk with a chip on my shoulder. My mentality is kind of like ‘take everything from everybody, don’t give them nothing.’”
Keane has started as point guard for the ’Birds in all six games the team has seen so far this season. He sports a 44.4 shooting percentage and 35 assists, while averaging 4.5 points per game. But with a growing role on the team, Keane also holds himself to higher personal expectations.
“I want to definitely take care of the ball more. We haven’t been getting good starts, and I kind of take that upon myself now motivating my teammates and stuff. I’ve taken on a lot of pressure on myself to definitely perform,” he said.
Keane committed to ISU after the ’Birds’ 2011-12 postseason run, but the team’s success wasn’t the deciding factor for the Canada native.
“It was really about coach [Dan] Muller and the teammates,” Keane said. “I came on my visit, and they were all nice and kind of like a family. B.A. [Bryant Allen] was hilarious all the time and everybody was just making jokes, and I really liked the campus.”
While Keane is the only freshman on the squad, he is not the only newcomer. This season also marked the debut of Dan Muller as the head coach of the ISU men’s basketball team, who has been a key factor in Keane’s transition into college life and athletics.
“He definitely helps out. He talks to me about things that I should improve on and things that I do well. After every game he usually asks me what I think about the game and I’ll tell him. I definitely see a relationship growing through that. He’s been around the game a lot longer than me, so he helps me out a lot on the court and off the court,” Keane said.
But as per usual, Keane experiences the typical “freshman blues” of missing his family and his home.
"Sometimes I get them, but then it kind of kicks in like alright, I have to do what I have to do,” he said. “My whole family went through it — both of my sisters went to college in America. We have to do what we have to do to get where we want to get.”