Matt Bollant era begins on Sunday vs. Purple Aces
Senior ready to lead Illini back to prominence
New Illini assistant brings a strong recruiting reputation to Champaign
Tianna Kirkland begins her second season as assistant coach at Illinois. Kirkland comes to Illinois after serving five seasons as an assistant at the University of Michigan.
"Tianna has a very bright future here," Bollant said. "She's a great recruiter. AAU coaches just think she is fantastic. Her contacts and her ability to get players will make a huge impact at Illinois. I love her heart for others, her desire to serve, her passion to go after things and her charismatic personality."
Kirkland had a big hand in recruiting at Michigan. In her five years under head coach Kevin Borseth, the Wolverines consistently improved culminating in a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. That marked the fourth post-season berth in five years for Michigan, having been invited to the WNIT three of the previous four, reaching the semifinals in 2010.
Kirkland's Big Ten ties also include serving as an assistant at Eastern Michigan under current Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant for the 2006-07 season. The Eagles were 16-13 overall, 10-6 in the Mid-American Conference that year. Kirkland had an emphasis on coaching post players at EMU as well as overseeing the team's academics, post-season workouts and strength and conditioning activities.
Kirkland has had two other stops to her coaching career, spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Butler University (2004-06) and two years as a graduate assistant at Central Michigan University (2002-04).
A native of Flint, Mich., Kirkland graduated from Ferris State University in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in applied biology. Kirkland was a four-year letterwinner in basketball while also lettering in track and field. She was team's leading scorer and rebounder in her final two seasons, helping the Bulldogs to a combined 74-37 record and the program's first-ever NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in 2000.
As a senior, Kirkland averaged 15.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, earning Women's Basketball Bulletin third-team All-American accolades, as well being named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Player of the Year. Kirkland was also selected to the All-Great Lakes Region and GLIAC All-Defense first teams in her final season. She finished her career as the school's 10th-leading scorer (926 points), third-leading rebounder (705) and fourth in career field-goal percentage (.540, 350-of-648). She also left FSU ranked in the top 10 for blocks (fifth, 40) and free throws made (ninth, 226).
In track & field, Kirkland earned NCAA Division II All-America honors in the indoor and outdoor shot put and the discus in her final season. A two-time co-captain, Kirkland graduated as the school record holder in all three events.
Kirkland also played for two semi-professional teams, the Flint Flames and Flint Monarchs.