Kalisha Keane has been unstoppable for Canada at the FIBA Americas Basketball Championship for Women in Neiva, Columbia.
The six-foot-one forward from Ajax, Ont. has scored over 15 points in each of the last three preliminary games Canada has played, including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc against Paraguay on Monday.
If Canada stays in the top two in Group B after playing Jamaica on Wednesday, Keane and her teammates will advance to the semi-finals.
The tournament’s winner will automatically qualify for the London 2012 Summer Olympics while the countries finishing between second and fourth place will get another chance to qualify next June.
Canada hasn’t qualified since 2000 in Sydney.
Keane has been making the most of her first chance with the senior Nats.
“This is actually my first time being at the qualifying tournament for the Olympics with the senior women’s national team, and I am really enjoying it,” said Keane, who has just wrapped up her career at Michigan State University.
“I think one of the best things about playing for Canada and with this team is just the bond you make with your teammates, and you also get a great sense of pride playing for your country,” she told the Toronto Observer.
The 22-year-old is the youngest player on the 12-women roster and is showing strong leadership on the floor.
“One of my biggest strengths would be my passing ability of my game,” said Keane, now in graduate psychology at MSU. “I really enjoy getting my teammates the ball and that kind of stuff.”
Head coach Allison McNeill wants to keep expectations on a realistic level, but hopes her team gets to the final four.
“We came down here to play our best possible basketball and see where that takes us,” said McNeil, who has been coaching the national team for nine years. “We kind of stay on the moment, but obviously our goal is to get to the final four, and then see what we can do from there.”
Tamara Tatham, from Brampton, Ont., believes the team has been playing well and hopes Canada will go far in the tournament.
“I feel like you can always do something better, give something more no matter what game it is whether it’s the first or last game, and I do see us going far and I really hope we do,” said Tatham, who plays professionally with the Halles Lions in Germany.
“We have a tough game tomorrow [against Jamaica] which is a must win, and I believe we can do it.”
Whether Canada advances to the semi-finals or not, Keane will always cherish her experience and the opportunity basketball has given to her.
“It’s been a pretty fun experience to spend my time with this team throughout the summer and this tournament,” she said.
“We have been able to travel to a bunch of different countries and I have seen a lot of the world in such a short space of time, so I just feel really blessed that basketball has allowed me to do that.”
After graduating and once her basketball career comes to an end, Keane plans to use her degree to either work in sport psychology or coaching.
But for now, she wants the Olympics.