Land O’ Lakes sisters become closer playing college basketball
By Kyle LoJacono
Kayli and Meghan Keough have always been each other’s best friend, but the Land O’ Lakes sisters have grown even closer playing basketball at the University of Central Florida (UCF).
“We actually live together, so we’re together 24/7,” said Meghan, a freshman guard. “We have a relationship where we don’t have to be sweet to each other all the time. We’ll be completely honest with each other, and we need that with basketball.”
Kayli, a redshirt junior forward, added, “I can be brutally honest with her and she can be brutally honest with me, and in the end we know neither one is going to get offended. If she makes a bad pass to me I’m going to tell her it’s a bad pass. If I don’t go get the ball she’ll say that. It’s good that we can be that way with each other as we build chemistry with the team.”
The Keoughs last played on the same team while at Land O’ Lakes High during the 2007-08 school year when Kayli was a senior and Meghan was a freshman. The two thought that would be their final season together, but a bit of serendipity connected them again.
Kayli originally signed to play at Florida State University, but transferred to UCF (6-8) after her sophomore season. When the Knights offered Meghan a scholarship she jumped at the chance to be reunited with her older sister.
“It didn’t take me long to commit,” Meghan said. She then added, “I’m really excited about being here and the opportunity that I’m getting. I’m seeing the floor a lot as a freshman. I’m getting some good experience, and I’m hoping I can improve quickly.”
The shift from high school to college has been a bit of a shock for Meghan because of how much faster the game is.
“The game is completely different,” Meghan said. “The speed and intensity and everything are at a whole new level. I think one of the biggest things for me has been reading help-side defenses. In high school you can kind of beat your player with a quick first step, and a lot of time that got me to the basket. Now I’m having to work on seeing defense early and making passes so I don’t turn the ball over.”
Meghan was used to dominating with her speed in high school her first two years at Land O’ Lakes and later at Tampa Catholic where she helped the Crusaders win back-to-back state championships
“You have to be more efficient in college,” Meghan said. “You have to make one hard step. You can’t get away with what we used to get away with in high school that’s for sure. I was always considered the fastest in high school and I used that to my advantage. Here it’s almost completely opposite. I’m having to outsmart people because I’m not the fastest or most athletic.”
UCF coach Joi Williams said Meghan is quickly making that transition.
“One thing about her is that she is going to try to do things right,” Williams said. “The pace of the game is different, but she’ll learn quickly because she’s very smart. You can tell her something one time and she understands it.”
Having Kayli with her has also made the move to college easy for the 5-foot-9 guard.
“Going from high school to college alone is a hard transition, but playing a sport is so much more difficult,” Meghan said. “I’ve had days when I was down and Kayli has picked me up, and there’re days when I can pick her up.”
Meghan said school has been a bigger stress than playing against the best college players in Florida.
“Academics has been the hardest thing,” said Meghan, who is majoring in biology/premed. “Coming in I knew it was going to be really hard academically, and I kind of let it stress me out at the beginning. Then I learned you can’t really think about all the papers you have to write, all the tests you have to study for and all the practices. You just have to take it hour by hour and get as much done as you can. This semester I’ve grown so much with time management.”
Meghan has played in all 14 of the Knights’ games this season, making five starts including the squad’s first regular season game against the University of South Alabama. She is averaging 18.9 minutes while putting up four points as she gets used to playing at the college level.
As for Kayli, she had already spent two years playing college ball, but had to get back into the flow of the game after having to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“At the beginning I felt shaky because I had to take the year off,” said Kayli, a sociology major. “I hadn’t played a game in forever. I’d just been going through drills and drills and drills. It took a little time to get the comfort back and get the feel for the game.”
The 6-foot-2 forward appears to have kicked off any rust. Kayli, who has made 11 starts and has played in all 14 of UCF’s games, is pouring in eight points while adding 4.3 rebounds in her 23.4 minutes per game.
“We have a lot of confidence in Kayli to knock down shots, but she has to be confident in herself,” Williams said. “She’s shown in the last couple of games that she can do it. She sees that we need her to score. I feel confident about Kayli’s future, and she’s only going to get better and better.”
Kayli had a breakout game just before the winter break. She scored a career-high 23 points in a 66-49 win against Bethune-Cookman University on Nov. 30.
“I didn’t realize when it was happening,” Kayli said. “I just felt really comfortable and was able to find gaps in their zone to find shots for myself. … Before the game coach told me to look for your spot where you want to shoot and then get there. Just worry about that. Cut and shoot. It kind of settled me down to just focus on those two things.”
Meghan said it was special watching Kayli perform that game.
“I know Kayli is one of the hardest workers, probably the hardest worker I’ve ever met,” Meghan said. “Not just with basketball. She’s the person who tries to be your best friend and tries to be the best person she can be in life. It makes me look up to her, and I look up to her in so many ways. It’s really awesome to see her getting her rewards finally for all the hard work she’s put in over the years.”
The Keoughs said their goal for the rest of the season is to get the team winning more consistently as Conference USA (CUSA) play begins this month.
“We’re very concerned with our conference games coming up,” Kayli said. “We don’t want to lose to those teams at all. We really need to be able to pick things up, fix turnover ratios and things like that in order to do well in conference play.”
UCF won its first conference game against East Carolina University 59-53, but could not make it two in a row at CUSA rival Tulane, losing 64-52. The Knights play at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m.
–All stats as recorded by the UCF athletic department
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