Blues rookie Michael Kelly has already brought a deadly shot to the men’s basketball team, but hopes that’s just the start
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
It’s always impressive to see a player take over a game. It’s even more impressive when it happens two nights in a row. I had never heard of Michael Kelly until I entered the St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) gymnasium on a brisk Thursday night last fall. My Seycove Seyhawks were taking on the STA Fighting Saints in the Howe Sound AA finals, and they only needed one win to advance to the provincial championships. The first half of the game was scrappy, but the Seyhawks entered their locker room at halftime with a double-digit lead, and I was feeling confident that they would be advancing that night.
Enter Michael Kelly.
I don’t know the exact numbers, but I remember a scrawny looking guard taking over the second half of that game in a manner I struggle to compare. At one point, I’m pretty sure Kelly went on a 14-0 run by himself, scoring both off the dribble by driving or losing his defender, or by spot shooting like there was no one guarding him. He ended up bringing the Saints back to win that night, and the next night as well – eliminating the Seyhawks and taking STA to the provincials.
After completing an impressive high school career, including representing British Columbia on it’s Under 14, 15, 16 and 17 teams, Kelly now finds himself at Capilano University, donning a Blues jersey. “Everything just happens a second quicker,” he said regarding the transition from high school ball to Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST). Undeterred, Kelly has already earned a spot on the Blues rotation and is working hard to adapt to the PACWEST’s style of play.
But, Kelly’s story goes much further back than that night at STA.
“I played Steve Nash since I was in grade two, but I got pretty invested the summer going into grade nine. I was playing on the U-14 provincial team and I got pretty hooked on it then,” he said.
Jim Kelly, Michael’s father, coached his son all the way through elementary school, until his final game as a Fighting Saint. Michael and his father would go to STA’s gym before school every morning of his grade 11 and 12 years and practice. “Some days I did dribbling and some days I shot. Usually, I tried to get 500 makes in a day,” he recalled.
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Kelly now finds himself having to adapt and grow as a player, to fulfil what he believes is possible for himself. He knows that he can shoot. Everyone around him knows. As he was discussing how his season has been going, Blues Team Captain Hassan Phills went out of his way to cross CapU’s Sportsplex’s auditorium and come over to the bench where Kelly was seated to interrupt the freshman to give him praise. “He’s definitely a way better shooter than me,” Phills said, before making a few more complimentary jokes about Kelly.
It’s hard to get Kelly to admit it though. “As a person, I’m pretty quiet,” he said. After some convincing however, he later agreed to what many say about his game. “I’d have to take the description of a really good shooting threat,” he said. “As a player, I’m pretty calm and collected on the court, but very competitive as well.”
The freshman guard knows that to see the same success he saw in high school at CapU, he’ll have to work harder than ever before. As talented as he is, Kelly is smaller than many of the PACWEST’s backcourts, leaving him under muscled on occasion. “In my freshman year here, I’m not able to get in the paint as much, so I’m trying to get stronger and get a better handle so by next year I’m able to do more,” he said.
Kelly’s already making an impact this year and he’s pleased with how his season’s going so far. “Going into the season I’ve been a guy who’s been in the rotation,” he said. “By the end of the season, my goal would be to stay in the rotation and stay ready for opportunities later in the season and in playoffs.”
Without taking his focus off this season, Kelly is using next years campaign as motivation to put in the work required for him to reach his long-term goals. “I want to be a starter by next year hopefully, and keep shooting the ball well, but also get to the hoop,” he disclosed.
For now, though, he’s focused on this season. Although the Blues haven’t started the season as well as they had hoped to, it’s clear that they have potential. “Sometimes it’s good not to hit your peak at the beginning of the season,” he said. “So, I think we’re just figuring stuff out about each other and the team offensively and improving defensively.” It seems that Kelly has nowhere to go but up from here, and it should be nothing less than thrilling to watch.