COLUMBIA — Jessica Keller is coming home.
Keller, a former player for Belle High School in Belle, Mo., and three-time Missouri Basketball Coaches Association All-State selection, was announced Wednesday as the new head coach of the Columbia College women's basketball program.
Keller becomes the second coach since the Cougars reinstated the women's team in 2001. She was an assistant coach at Minnesota State for three seasons before accepting the Columbia College position.
“Jessica has a consistent record of success both as a student-athlete and coach in high-level programs," Columbia College athletics director Bob Burchard said in a statement. "During the search process, it became evident early that Jessica is a rising star in the profession. She is a person of high integrity, enthusiastic about teaching the game and committed to character driven athletics."
Keller was also the academic coordinator for Minnesota State during her time with the program. She played college basketball at Quincy College and became a graduate assistant for the program while pursuing a masters degree before heading to Mankato, Minn., to join the Stompers.
“Columbia College has a very bright future under the leadership and guidance of Jessica Keller," Minnesota State coach Emilee Thiesse said in a statement. "Jessica is a young, enthusiastic coach who has a mind for the game and a competitiveness and passion that can be matched by very few. I have had an opportunity to see her grow over the past couple years and there is no doubt that she will have a very successful career at CC."
The Cougars went 26-8 last season and were a frontrunner in the American Midwest Conference throughout the season. Columbia College put together a 20-2 record in AMC play but lost in the first round of the conference tournament.
The team returns nine players from that squad, and Keller will try to mold them into a team that can turn regular season accolades into postseason success.
“I want to thank Columbia College and the athletic department for the opportunity to return home to Missouri and lead these young women," she said. "I look forward to building on the success of the program and producing teams that proudly represent Columbia College on the court, in the classroom, and within the community.”