Eastern Michigan University Women’s Basketball Staff Update

Eastern Michigan University head women’s basketball coach Fred Castro announced the hiring of Malikah Willis as the team’s newest assistant coach and recruiting coordinator today, Nov. 18.  In addition to the new hire, Katie Hempen has also been elevated to an assistant coaching position, after spending two seasons with the program in the graduate assistant and Director of Basketball Operations roles.

Willis brings nearly two decades of collegiate coaching experience to Ypsilanti, with stints at a number of high-level institutions including Norfolk State (2007-09), West Virginia (2009-13), Georgia Tech (2013-17), the College of Charleston (2017-19), and Texas Tech (2019-20).
“I am ecstatic to add someone of Malikah’s caliber to our staff,” said Castro. “Her reputation and experience as a recruiting coordinator speaks for its self as she has helped sign seven top-25 recruiting classes nationally.  During that time she has also coached at the highest of levels both in the ACC and Big 12.  Her experience as a player and coach will benefit everyone as we compete in the MAC, arguably the best mid-major conference in the country.  Malikah’s work ethic and personality will be great fit with our student-athletes and staff.”
A highly-touted recruiter, Willis has helped compile seven top-25 recruiting classes, including four while at West Virginia and three at Georgia Tech. She has signed two McDonald’s All-Americans and coached 14 student-athletes to all-conference honors during her time in the Big East, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference. In addition, Willis has coached five WNBA draft picks.
“I am beyond thrilled about this opportunity to work with Coach Castro and his staff,” said Willis. “He has done a tremendous job leading  young women and cultivating the tradition of this EMU program. I am excited about what’s to come and feel very fortunate to be a part of the Eastern Michigan FamilE!”

Prior to her most recent stint, at Texas Tech (2019-20), Willis spent two seasons at the College of Charleston, where she served under Candice M. Jackson. Before arriving at CofC, Willis spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, helping guide the Yellow Jackets to an 81-55 overall record including a 29-35 mark in ACC play. During that stint, Georgia Tech reached three WNIT’s, including one championship game appearance, and had one NCAA appearance.

As an assistant coach at West Virginia, she helped lead the Mountaineers to four NCAA Tournament appearances, three of which came off 20+ win regular seasons. During her time with the team, WVU recorded a program-record 29-win season in 2009-10. Willis played an integral part in developing the 2009-10 All-Big East Freshman Team unanimous selection Asya Bussie and two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection, Lanay Montgomery.
A four-year letterwinner at Iowa, Willis earned bachelor’s degrees in media studies and African-American studies in 1998. She played professionally for Color Cap Tybnik of Poland and Tapiola Honka of Finland in 1999, and Brazil’s Santa Maria Club in 2000.

Willis is a native of Queens, N.Y.

With her promotion, Hempen is set to take on her third role in as many years with the program. After spending her first season in Ypsilanti as the team’s graduate assistant, Hempen was quickly elevated to the Director of Basketball Operations post. In that role, Hempen was responsible for numerous aspects of the program’s daily activity, including budgeting, travel coordination, and campus communication for her student-athletes.

Katie Hempen has been in our program for two years as a graduate assistant and Director of Basketball Operations,” remarked Castro. “In that time, she has shown excellent work ethic, selflessness, a can-do mentality, and loyalty.  These traits, combined with her basketball acumen and desire to recruit, will positively impact our student-athletes both on and off the court.  Katie’s playing experience at Arizona State, and professionally overseas, has developed her eye for the offensive side of the game which I’m excited to work with.  Simply put, Katie is a star in the making, one which we will all want to keep an eye on as she progresses throughout her career.”

 In her new role, Hempen is set to aid in the day-to-day development of EMU’s post and guard players. Additionally, she will use her play-development skills to enhance Eastern’s specialty plays and situational offense.

“I’m beyond excited to be in this new role that allows me to be back on the court,” said Hempen. “Anyone who knows me knows my true passion is coaching on the court. I’m grateful for the opportunity that Fred Castro has given me, which will allows me to help continue to develop the program he envisions here at Eastern Michigan. I truly believe we are building something special in Ypsilanti, and it’s great to continue to be a part of the FamilE.”
Prior to joining the Eagles, Hempen spent time coaching in the high school and AAU ranks, holding posts with Desert Mountain High School and Arizona Select Club’s U16 and U13 squads.

    One of the best players to ever suit up for Arizona State, Hempen concluded her career as ASU’s all-time leader in three-pointers with 185 makes. Additionally, she set the single-season record for three-pointers with 185 makes. Additionally, she set the single-season record for three-pointers (76) during the 2014-15 season, while also setting the Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament records for three-pointers in a game (6) and career three-pointers (19).

A two-time All-Pac-12 honoree, Hempen began her collegiate career at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. There, she was selected as the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team, and was a three-time OVC Newcomer of the Week honoree.

Hempen graduated from Arizona State in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sport management at Eastern Michigan. She added a master’s degree in sport management from EMU in 2020.

A native of Highland Hills, Ill., Hempen resides in Ypsilanti. Her wife, Devin, is a former standout soccer player at Arizona State and is the current Director of Operations with the Phoenix Rush soccer organization.