He may have cut the afro, but the Raven’s starting point guard, Kaza Kajami-Keane, has more swagger than ever.
Kajami-Keane was selected to the All-Canadian Second team in his first season in the CIS, averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 assists on the season. He was the floor general for a Ravens team in a state of change, after the departures of not only the Scrubb Brothers, but coach Dave Smart, who took a sabbatical for the year.
“It’s something that a lot of people praise and whatnot, but for me, like I tell everybody, I didn’t come to Carleton to win individual awards.” said Kajami-Keane on his All-Canadian selection. “Individual awards are nice, and you put them up in your mom’s house” he chuckled, “but they don’t help you out much other than that.”
A transfer from Cleveland State University, Kajami-Keane played three years in the NCAA Division 1. In his fourth year, however, he chose to return to Canada. Born and raised in Ontario, Kajami-Keane opted for Carleton University, historically the most successful team in Canadian InterUniversity Sports (CIS).
“The NCAA is a lot slower, more methodical because of the 35 second shot clock. Things like the difference in free throws and media timeouts. I personally like the CIS rules better” said Kajami-Keane on the move from the NCAA.
When asked why he chose Carleton in particular, he responded by saying: “I came to play for the best coach, to compete, to get better and win basketball games. This program is historic for winning a lot of games, and the main thing for me is to play for a coach who will help me get better.”
Kaza put an emphasis on the quality of Carleton’s coaches, speaking about how both Dave and Rob Smart have helped him groom his game. “That’s why I came, that’s why I’m going to continue to play for these coaches, and continue to put Carleton on my chest, because these are the best coaches in the country.”
Hopes were high for a Ravens team that had won five national titles in a row, and Kajami-Keane had the unenviable job of replacing three-time CIS player of the year winner Philip Scrubb at point guard. “When you play for Carleton, you have high expectations for yourself and your team.” Said Kajami-Keane. He did a magnificent job, however, leading the Ravens to the OUA silver, and putting the Ravens in a position to win their sixth straight national title.
“I’m a guy who takes it day by day, gets better, so I see that the progress I’ve made this year, there’s nothing compared to it.” Said Kajami-Keane on his first season with the Ravens.
Some of Kajami-Keane’s biggest games this year were against Queens (Jan 30) where he scored 20 points along with ten assists and eight rebounds, and against Laurentian (Feb 26) when he dropped 13 dimes. His game goes beyond just numbers however, as he is the engine that gets the Ravens offense running.
Looking into next year, Kaza said there isn’t much to change. “We want to continue to get better, and keep putting ourselves in a position to win. We got good transfers coming in, and I don’t know any of the rookies yet, but knowing coach Dave, he’s going to get some good guys.”
“When this season is done, we’re going to be right back in the gym on monday and tuesday working on our game again. It’s kind of like a train, once one wheel gets going, the next takes off too.”
As for personal goals, Kajami-Keane keeps it simple. “We haven’t won a championship yet so I’d love to do that.”
Dave Smart steps down as Carleton men’s head coach after 14 national titles
It’s the end of an era at Carleton.
The school has announced that Dave Smart, who built a dynasty that dominated Canadian university sport for nearly 20 years, has stepped down.
Smart has accepted a new role as the university’s director of basketball operations, Carleton said in a news release.
He will be responsible for “developing the men’s and women’s basketball programs and continuing to build a culture of sport excellence,” the release said.
“Smart will provide operational support, mentorship and technical leadership to the coaching staff of both programs, and he will work with the Department of University Advancement in fundraising and community development.
“He’ll also provide mentorship to other U Sports coaches in Carleton Athletics.”
Taffe Charles, who coached Carleton’s women’s program for 12 years and won a national title in 2017-18 will succeed Smart as men’s team head coach.
“It’s been a great run,’’ said Smart in a statement.
“Coaching is my second love, my first being my wife and children. I am very thankful to the university and I am looking forward to my new role.
“This gives me an opportunity to stay involved in basketball while having more time to spend with my family.”
Smart’s 19-year tenure at Carleton was one of remarkable dominance, with 14 national championships.
He also won a record number of coaching awards and has been active as a coach with Canada Basketball.
“Dave’s success on the court has given Carleton great national visibility and we are sincerely grateful,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president of Carleton University.
“I wish Dave all the best in his new role where he will share his ‘playbook’ with all our Ravens programs.”
Charles played on Carleton’s men’s team from 1990 to 1995 and began his coaching career as an assistant in 1995; he then served as an assistant with the men’s program from 1998 to 2007.
Since returning to the women’s program in 2007, Carleton won four U Sports Final 8 berths, four OUA East titles, and two OUA championships.
Carleton’s women’s national championship in 2018 was the first in school history.
“I am truly honoured to be entrusted as the next head coach of the Carleton University men’s basketball program,’’ said Charles in a statement.
“I look forward to the challenge of continuing the high standard of excellence that has been set by Coach Smart, his coaching staff and the players.’’
Carleton said it has launched a national search for a head coach of its women’s program.
Kadre Gray wins second consecutive U Sports MVP
Laurentian guard Kadre Gray took his game to another level this season.
That’s saying something.
A year ago, Gray was the top Canadian university male athlete in any sport, the first Laurentian student to win the honour.
He led the country in assists, narrowly missed a scoring title, and — perhaps by default — also won the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as men’s basketball player of the year.
“Kadre’s work ethic continues to shine bright,” said Laurentian head coach Shawn Swords in a statement.
“He is always looking for ways to improve and refine all aspects of the game.”
If there was any doubt, Gray stifled it in his junior season.
He averaged 31 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game en route to his second consecutive Moser trophy.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to do it once,” said Swords.
“And now, to be named MVP twice, is truly a testament to his willingness to learn and improve.
“The Kadre effect has spread throughout our community as well. It is great to see him support our local youth and realize the positive impact he has on everyone.”
Gray received the 2019 Moser trophy Thursday at a gala in Halifax, N.S., ahead of the U Sports Men’s Final 8 tournament.
University of Calgary guard Mambi Diawara, Concordia guard Ricardo Monge and St. Mary’s University guard Kemar Alleyne were also finalists for the award.
Gray was simply a cut above. He posted gaudy stats with notable efficiency, shooting 48.8 per cent from the floor.
He was also a First Team All-Canadian and played with Canada’s national team in FIBA World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers against Venezuela and Brazil.
Gray was the only U Sports player to participate in the qualifiers.
Other award winners:
Rookie of the Year (Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy): Alix Lochard, UQAM.
Ken Shields Award for Student-Athlete Community Service: Tanner Graham, Queen’s.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Anderson, Carleton.
Stuart W. Aberdeen Memorial Trophy (Coach of the Year): Dan Vanhooren, Calgary.