2006 Focus: Curtis Kelly

What a difference a year makes for Curtis Kelly. The junior big man was watching his teammates a year ago - now, he's leading them.

There may be more talented big men in the junior class, but it'd be nearly impossible to find a player with more combination of talent and charisma than Curtis Kelly.

Kelly (Scout, No. 12), a 6-8 ½, 215-pound junior forward who is ranked No. 12 in the Class of 2006, has a completely new attitude than he had a year ago – when his immaturity showed as he was suspended for the beginning of his sophomore season for academics.

``I've matured," Kelly said. "I started to realize what I'm losing by not playing. I sat down and realized that I could miss out on the chance to go to college or to the league if I don't get my grades up and pass the SAT."

Now Kelly, who flunked a pair of classes a year ago, has an 85.6 average.

In addition to the new outlook, Kelly's game has also improved. He began his junior campaign with 18 points, 14 boards and 7 blocks in a victory against Lincoln and had 9 points, 20 rebounds and 6 blocks in a win against a Theo Davis-less Cardozo team as Rice improved to 2-0.

Playing in New York has a different set of challenges. Kelly is being told over and over that he has a chance to go straight to the NBA, but he's not listening to that talk – yet.

``I just focus on school and college," Kelly said. "If I happen to be a top 10 or a top 20 pick, I'll look at it. If not, I'll go to college."

Kelly is also trying to put weight on his slender frame and that may be one of the most difficult tasks. He was extremely happy when he gained two pounds recently.

``It's not easy for me to gain weight," he said. "I work out, but I don't eat right. I eat a lot of Chinese food and McDonald's. The nutritionist and trainer both tell me to drink sport shakes, but I think it's nasty. When I go to the weight room, I stay in there – but as far as eating right, I need help with that."

Kelly had three "dream schools" – North Carolina, Texas and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels aren't overly active in recruiting him these days, so it's Texas and Georgia Tech who have moved to the forefront.

``Texas is pushing me," Kelly said. "I'm not saying I'm going to commit; I like them a lot and they're recruiting me hard."

Kelly also lists South Florida, due largely in part to his friendship with assistant coach and former AAU coach Julius Allen, as well as Syracuse, Arizona and Illinois.

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