Kahlaijah Dean: Women’s basketball’s leading star

Kahlaijah+Dean+starts+to+drive+from+the+top+of+the+key+against+UIC+on+Dec.+2.+

Sophie Hume

Kahlaijah Dean starts to drive from the top of the key against UIC on Dec. 2.

Christian Tate, Sports Reporter

Oakland University is watching what could be the final collegiate basketball season for one of its brightest stars, Kahlaijah Dean.

The senior player from Bakersfield, California is lighting up the court this season, averaging 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 32 minutes of action per night. Although her efficiency leaves some things to be desired, it can’t be denied she’s been a bright spot for the Golden Grizzlies this season. 

This high level of play is nothing new and definitely not a surprise to anyone familiar with Dean’s game or level of athletic ability. A three-sport student coming out of high school — participating in basketball, track and volleyball — Dean averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 boards, four assists and three steals per game en route to racking up multiple awards prior to her first season with OU.

Alongside leading Independence High to four consecutive league championships from 2015-2018 and three consecutive valley championships from 2015-2018, Dean was also selected for the 2016-2017 Division II All-State First Team and won both the All-Area MVP award from 2017-2018 and the All-Valley MVP award from 2015-2016. 

Dean finished her high school career as Independence’s all-time leading scorer, along with the leading records in field goals, three-points and assists, giving us a prelude to the legacy she would produce here at OU. 

Her production really took hold her junior year in the 2020-2021 season. After only starting four games in the season prior, she started all 24 games of the 2020-2021 season, putting up her best statistical season in her college career. 

She averaged 17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 31.7 minutes of action en route to an All-Horizon League First Team selection. She also became just the 29th player in program history to score 1000 points in their career. 

She notched two top-three statistical rankings in the Horizon League last season while leading the Grizzlies to a .500 [12-12] record, ranking third in points and second in assists by scoring 412 points and sending out 106 assists. A volume scorer by nature, she ranked second in the Horizon League for most 20-point games with eight. Out of her 24 games, she scored in double figures 21 times. 

Continuing to build off of her amazing breakout season, she’s set to eclipse every mark she had set the year before. She has improved in what could be considered the most important skill in modern basketball, as she is currently shooting 32% from the arc — up from the 28% she was shooting last year. Always a confident scorer, she has shown some incredibly dangerous potential this season as a two-way player, averaging 2.8 steals through her first seven games. 

Her production is a necessity for an OU team that is struggling to find offensive firepower elsewhere this season. A huge reason for the Golden Grizzlies’ nearing .500 right now, Dean is showing the kind of star power needed for the Golden Grizzlies to make a deep postseason run.