Kaza Kajami-Keane is a 26 year old 185cm point guard from Ajax, Ontario Canada that played his third professional season and first with the Syntanics MBC playing 19 games averaging 15.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 5.3apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 55.1%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 82.9%. Last season he played with Landstede Basketbal Zwolle (Holland-Eredivisie) playing 45 games: Score-2 (18.4ppg), 5.6rpg, 4.6apg, Steals-2 (2.7spg), FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 81.5%. As a rookie he played with the Raptors 905 Missisauga (NBA G League) playing 47 games averaging 6.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 81.2%. He began his basketball career at Pickering High School and he also played a year at the Christian Faith Center Academy: 18ppg, 11apg. He then played two seasons at Illinois State (NCAA) and a season at Cleveland State (NCAA) before finishing at top Canadian basketball institution Carleton University (CIS) where as a senior he played 23 games averaging 15.7ppg, 4.5rpg, Assists-1 (5.7apg), 1.1spg, FGP: 56.7%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 76.5%.
Due to the abundance of interviews that germanhoops.com does this one with Kaza Kajami-Keane was lost, but found again. German Hoops spoke to the Canadian about his basketball career before the start of the 2019-2020 season.
Kaza thanks for talking to germanhoops.com After playing in the G-League and Holland, you are playing your third professional season in Germany with the Syntainics MBC. How excited are you about this opportunity?
Kaza Keane – I think this is a great opportunity for me . The team is well coached, and the fan base I hear is one of a kind. I am excited to get to Germany and showcase my talent. It is a well respected league and I am eager to compete with the best of them on a daily basis.
What do you know in general about Germany and it’s basketball? Did you get some tips from your Canadian national team teammates the Scrubb brothers?
Kaza Keane – I have heard outstanding things about Germany. Heard the people are nice, and that the cities are beautiful to visit. The way everyone talks about the level of basketball is always something that is motivating. I am excited to be apart of it.
You had a very strong season in Holland. Was the appeal of the competitive easyCredit league one that was too big to pass up?
Kaza Keane – I think just as a group we felt as though this move was best. It allows me to play in a better league, but also the way the coach told me had a good role for me with MBC I didn’t want to pass that situation up. I feel as though for me to continue to improve it was important for me to take that next step in my career, therefore we went with MBC because we felt as though they had the best plan for me to succeed as well as the team.
The club is very high on your abilities. What was the deciding factor that helped you chose MBC for your new team?
Kaza Keane – They reached out to me very early in the process which was something I liked. It also was the plan in which they wanted to play is similar to the way I play, as well as the role they want me to have was something I felt suited my game. They also have a goal they want to achieve so being able to be a part of that was very important to me, it allows me to be put in a situation where there is a growth mindset and that is all I can ask for.
You will be sharing the point guard duties with talented Jovan Novak. You two belong to the best import duo in the league. How excited are you to be able to play with this very talented player?
Kaza Keane – I have heard great things about Jovan, and I am thrilled he is on my team. I am looking forward to working with him and all my other teammates. I think we all have a lot to prove before taking that kind of title for such a great league. It will take us developing as a team daily, which then hopefully can put us in a position to win games. Winning at the end of the day is the main goal, and that is why I feel both of us decided to play with MBC .
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a point guard that can score at ease as well as find your teammates. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
Kaza Keane – Growing up I would watch a lot of Steve Nash, especially being a Canadian player he was the one many of us strived to become. Therefore, I would incorporate the way he read the game and how he would pass into my game. While that was the case for passing, when it comes to scoring the ball I really enjoy watching Damian Lillard. The way he moves off the ball, and how he can score in many facets is something I always felt was important to have in my game. Lastly, I try to be as best a defender as I can be by watching guys like Patrick Beverly and smaller guards. I wouldn’t compare myself to one player directly, but rather I try to gain things from as many players as I can.
You have averaged double figures in scoring in the CIS and in Holland and led the CIS in assists once and was also third best passer in the Canadian college league. Despite your ability to score in many ways, would you still consider yourself a pass first guard?
Kaza Keane – It is actually interesting because growing up I really didn’t score the ball nearly as much, since I had many high level teammates around me. As I got older though I realized to expand my game I needed to be able to score the ball more consistently which would allowed me to be a more consistent threat. So I don’t know if any more I would consider myself a pass first point guard or even a scoring point guard. I just try my best to make the correct read offensively every time I can. If that means I need to make a pass, or even a hockey assists I would do that or if it requires me to score I do that. I more think I try to just be a lead guard.
You are a very good finisher and good playmaker. What other strengths does your game possess that makes you the player that you are?
Kaza Keane.- I honestly think I just try and study the game as much as I can. I really enjoy playing basketball and dissecting the game. Majority of the time I am not playing, I am watching it somehow. I watch majority of the leagues across the world just to pick up little things that may vary from player to player and team to team. So I would say a strength for me is the way I can read the game and see the floor. I was very well coached in university at Carleton, therefore I try to incorporate the reads and way they taught me to see the floor in my professional game as well.
Your three pointer continues to be a work in progress. You have been up and down in the last years, but shot the ball better last season after shooting only 24% in the G-League. What are your long term goals in becoming a consistent three point shooter
Kaza Keane – Shooting is something I feel a lot of it has to do with repetition. The more I shoot on my own and work with my coaches the more I continue to develop. Last year, I was able to work and shoot a lot of shots on my own that were then translated to the game which allowed me to see great results. I think with me shooting is more a mindset. I need to continue to develop, rather more than a mechanics or even ability thing.
You are also a very good defender with quick hands. How has your defensive play developed further as a professional player and on what area’s of your defensive play do you work on now so you can continue to get even better?
Kaza Keane – I think defensively my mindset was instilled at Carleton and as I moved through to the professionals I was also lucky to be gifted great defensive coaches as well. In the G-League I played on a very good defensive team as well as last year as well. When your team is great defensively it makes it a lot easier for individuals to thrive defensively because you understand you have great pack line defense behind you, length behind you and good rotations that follow. This kind of allowed me to excel more defensively because I knew I had great teammates that aided me .
You’re a player that can do many things well at both ends of the court, but what do you feel is still a hidden strength in your game that seems off the radar of most?
Kaza Keane – I think that my off the ball defense has improved tremendously. I am understanding more how to be a better off ball defender, which then allows my teammates to be better on the ball defenders. I think this is something that gets overlooked at times, but rightfully so. I am not the most athletic nor the tallest therefore when I do get in the gaps defensively or anything of this sort it is not as noticeable. I think I still have a long ways to go but it something that I feel gets looked over a lot.
Last season you played with Landstede Basketbal Zwolle (Holland-Eredivisie) playing 45 games: Score-2 (18.4ppg), 5.6rpg, 4.6apg, Steals-2 (2.7spg), FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 81.5%. After winning two CIS titles with Carleton, you won your first professional title with Zwolle. You beat favorite and top team Groningen in six games. How do you feel did your game grow that season especially your leadership qualities?
Kaza Keane- Landstede did a great job by allowing me to play my game and gave me the opportunity to make mistakes while playing through them. This is something I am very grateful for ! My teammates from top to bottom were all fantastic people and really helped me step outside my comfort zone. They made me lead in a different way then I was used to but it worked out in the end which I am really excited for. The coaching staff worked with me consistently on my shooting, passing, and decision making daily. They really saw a lot in me which pushed me to want to be more successful for the organization daily. I am forever grateful to them.
In the last 4 playoff final games against Groningen you shot an amazing 14/26 from outside. Was this the best that you shot the ball in your career and how confident are you now as a shooter?
Kaza Keane – At Carleton I shot around 38 percent from the three point line, which was probably the best statistic year. I think last year in the playoffs it was great that I continued to workout and shoot as much as possible with the coaches. This allowed me to go into every game confident knowing that I put the work in prior, therefore I knew I had shot these shots many times before. They all felt good throughout the playoffs and it went in our favour luckily. I am very confident shooting the ball right now. This summer I worked on shooting more on the move and specific shots but I feel going into the season that I am shooting the ball well.
As a rookie you played with the Raptors 905 Missisauga (NBA G League) playing 47 games averaging 6.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 81.2%. What was your wake up call to playing in the G-League where you knew that the whole NBA process is a business?
Kaza Keane – I really enjoyed my time in the G-LEAGUE. It allowed me to transition into the professional ranks smoothly, where I wasn’t as far from home and family. I also got to work consistently with my assistant coach Nathaniel Mitchell, and I feel this allowed my game to develop at an alarming rate. The G League allowed me to see the business aspect of professional basketball, but it was all worth it . I learned more than I expected that year and it allowed me to change completely as a person and a basketball player.
You had some very good games in the G league, but in order to really make a big impression you need many minutes, but averaged only 18 minutes per game. What was your summary of the G-league season and do you feel like had you had 30 plus minutes that your career might have gone differently?
Kaza Keane- I think with more opportunity a lot of basketball players would put themselves in a better situation. It was very hard for me though because I was a rooking playing behind the MVP of the entire league. So rightfully so I probably wasn’t going to play as much minutes as may have wanted. The year though was still one I would not change, it definitely made me a better basketball player which is all I can ask for, especially in my first year
You have played for the Canadian national team under head coach Gordon Herbert and he is really high on your game. What did you learn to appreciate most about his coaching in the time that you spent with him?
Kaza Keane- I really liked playing for Gordie. He reminded me a lot of my coach in university Dave Smart. He was very detailed in the way in which he wanted to play, he was thorough in the way he directed us and at the end of the day he allowed us to still play freely. The way he incorporates middle ball screens offensively was also something I liked because I feel as though playing through a ball screen is a way in which I can excel, therefore knowing he was putting me into position to excel was something I enjoyed.
You played your first two NCAA seasons with Illinois State playing 63 NCAA games and never averaging more than 2,7ppg and your minutes got shaved down from 18 to 12 in your sophomore season. How tough was it playing there and do you feel lie you got a fair chance?
Kaza Keane – It was tough at times, but I wouldn’t trade any of that time. I still love everyone from ISU and would never say anything poorly about that program. At the end of the day it is a performance-based business we play in, therefore if you don’t perform well you will lose your opportunity. I wasn’t performing to the capabilities they felt was necessary and we decided to go in different directions. It worked out great for them they got some amazing talent and went on to do great things! I moved on and went on to do great things with my university Carleton. I think sometimes the timing is not right and that the fit is not the greatest, but it is still a learning experience, that was the case with ISU. I am still thrilled I went there for my 2 years though because it allowed me to be shaped into the person I am now.
In your second season your teammate was point guard Paris Lee who you will face this season in the BBL. Is Bamberg one of the teams that you have marked in your calendar?
Kaza Keane – I am looking forward to playing all 17 other teams in the league ! I am happy for Paris and look forward to seeing him succeed in the league.
You then played a season with Cleveland State (NCAA) playing 34 games averaging 4.4ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.1apg, 1.0spg. There you averaged 20 minutes per game, but weren’t a real offensive factor. Despite not having more of a role, were you able to gain something valuable from this year?
Kaza Keane – I actually learned at Cleveland State how to be a better on ball defender actually. They would dedicate me to guard the best guards on the other teams. This was something I took pride in and would go into games attempting my best to guard them. This was something I took great pride in. I think CSU, allowed me to understand you can make an impact on the game by not just putting the ball through the basket but rather by doing the little things that mean so much.
You then moved to Carleton University (CIS, starting five) averaging 12.7ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-3 (6.4apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 28.4%, FT: 79.2% and 15.7ppg, 4.5rpg, Assists-1 (5.7apg), 1.1spg, FGP: 56.7%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 76.5%. Here you averaged 29 minutes your first season and 26 minutes your second season. How do you feel did your game develop further here?
Kaza Keane – If it was not for Carleton University I probably would not be playing basketball anymore. This is where I learned how to play basketball. They broke the game down and opened my eyes to the right way to play. I am always grateful and thankful that I decided to finally come back home and play at Carleton.
You had two good games against Ryerson and Calgary in winning the CIS titles in both seasons. Which title was the sweetest?
Kaza Keane- I would say winning the first championship was better for me. Many people doubted that we could win since we lost Phil and Tommy the year prior. We also didn’t really have any returners that had much experience. We didn’t have Dave Smart as our coach either, which kind of made everyone on the outside feel as though we had no chance of winning. While that was the case, we came together and formed a bond between the team that was irreplaceable and that we still have to this day.
How did head coach Dave Smart groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Kaza Keane – Dave is the best coach I have ever had. He broke down the game of basketball for me and allowed me to see it in a different way. He really is a basketball genius. I think he constantly prepares us to see the game in a higher light, as well as understand how to give ourselves advantages every time we step on the floor. I am extremely glad he was able to coach me.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Connor Wood?
There were a ton of these games ! So I couldn’t really give you a definitive answer but saying that I would have to say myself. At Carleton we all had some very tough battles, everyone really took pride in wanting to be the best and compete.
Who has been the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA or in Europe?
Kaza Keane – I would have to say the best player played against in the NCAA was Malcolm Brogdon. He played at very smooth pace and allowed the game to come to him in a sense. He has gone on since then to play some really good basketball in the NBA, even to the point that he has been named Rookie Of The Year in a pretty good draft class.
Please list your five best teammates of all-time?
If we are talking the most talented teammates I would go with
1.Andrew Wiggins (Canadian Junior National Team)
2.Tristan Thompson (Canadian National Team)
3.Pascal Siakam (Summer Circuit Basketball)
4.Kelly Olynyk (Canadian National Team)
5.Cory Joseph ( Canadian National Team)
My favourite teammates of all- time
2.Gavin Resch ( Carleton University)
3.Ryan Ejim (Carleton University)
4.Sherron Dorsey- Walker (Landstede Basketball)
5.Guillaume Payen – Boucard/ Joe Rocca (Carleton Basketball)
1.James Owusu (Carleton University
Please name your personal own NBA Rushmore. Which four heads would you pick past or present for your list?
Honourable Mention: Mike Bibby
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Kaza Keane – I honestly didn’t get much time to see Michael Jordan play, especially not in his prime but from when I look back and watch how he moved and the way he dissecting defenses it is hard for me not to look at him as the best ever to play the game. Also just the way he changed the game is something I think we all have accumulated to, he made the game a more global game as well as added his own flair to it. That being said, Lebron James is not far behind and I think if he is able to win a championship in LA, or even a couple now with Anthony Davis then he can come and take that crown.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Kaza Keane – The last movie I watched actually was Rush Hour. When we were traveling to Australia for some exhibition games with the national team, the last movie I watched and I watched a ton of movies on that long flight, was Rush Hour. It actually is one of my favourite movies! I love Chris Tucker, he is very funny.
Thanks Kaza for the chat.