University of Illinois Springfield Staff Update

University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball coach Casey Thousand announced her coaching staff this week. Jenna Kotas will be the program’s assistant coach, and Keri Kleist will return as the team’s graduate assistant coach.

Kotas comes to UIS after spending one season at Purdue Northwest. While at Purdue Northwest, she was named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Thirty Under 30 list, which recognizes some of the top up-and-coming coaches in women’s basketball.

Kotas also coached one year at the University of Dubuque and one season at Benedictine University (Ill.). At Benedictine, she helped the program reach the NACC Tournament. At both of those stops, she was in charge of wing and post player development.

Kotas started her collegiate playing career at Clarke University and then transferred to Dubuque for her final two seasons. She scored a combined 1,605 points, and was an all-conference performer all four years. Kotas was an honorable mention All-American as a senior after averaging 18.1 points per game and ranking third in the nation in free-throw percentage with a .902 mark. She helped Dubuque win the program’s first regular season conference championship in that 2014-15 season.

“Jenna brings her knowledge and competiveness to UIS,” said Thousand. “She has coached at different levels and knows what it takes to compete on the basketball court. Jenna is originally from the Chicagoland area and continues to be connected with multiple high school/AAU programs. She will be a huge part in the recruiting process to secure top recruits to enhance our program. We are very excited to add Jenna to our women’s basketball staff.”

Kleist will be in her second season as an assistant coach for the Prairie Stars in 2019-20. Among the team’s highlights was a nine-point win over eventual GLVC Tournament finalist Bellarmine.

Kleist was a NCAA Division I player at Ball State University and Cal State University Bakersfield. As a senior at Ball State, she was part of a squad that went 25-7 and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. Kleist was a member of Cal State Bakersfield from 2014-17. She played in 28 games during the 2015-16 season, and recorded 36 points, 46 rebounds, six assists, six blocks, and 10 steals. She missed the other two years with an injury.

“Keri has a ton of experience with different coaches and philosophies.” Said Thousand. “She is currently working on her Masters at UIS and will graduate in May. Keri will help make a smooth transition into this season with a new staff. She is young and eager to continue her coaching experience at UIS.”