Kelly was a 6-foot-7 player who often played the low post for an undersized Colorado team. He is still fifth all-time in career rebounds at CU. Kelly graduated in 1984 and played professionally in Australia and Portugal. He is married and has a daughter, and lives in Perth, Australia.
BSN spoke to Kelly via phone last fall.
BSN: What are you up to these days?
Vince Kelly: I'm managing a security company. We do various concert venues, pubs, hotels. And I'm working during the day as a courier. So I stay pretty busy.
BSN: When did you actually move to Australia? And was it basketball that took you over there?
Vince Kelly: Yes. I left CU in '84 and commenced to playing basketball in Sydney in the National Basketball League in '85.
BSN: How many years did you play in the league there?
Vince Kelly: I played three years in the NBL. And then I left Sydney in '87 and played in Portugal for three years. Then I came back to Perth, Australia, in 1990 and played basketball in the state league for the next 12 years.
I'm married to an Australian (Debbie) and have a daughter (Desiree, 12) who plays basketball quite well. So, hopefully, I can send her down to Colorado to play for the Buffs when she's old enough.
BSN: What was it like to go from Colorado to Australia? How long before you adjusted to life over there?
Vince Kelly: Coming to Sydney — it's like any other metropolitan city across the world. Coming from L.A. to Colorado was more of an adjustment than coming from the United States to Australia. It was quite easy to adjust to the lifestyle in Sydney.
BSN: In your wildest dreams did you ever think you'd spend a significant portion of your life in a foreign country?
Vince Kelly: No, I didn't. I was doing multi-cultural studies at Colorado and I did a paper on Australia. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine living here, or even visiting here. But after finishing Colorado and trying out with a few CBA teams and the Denver Nuggets, I met a few players who had played over in Australia, and they only had great things to say about it.
I have dual citizenship, and my daughter has dual citizenship. So when she's old enough and she wants to continue her studies in the U.S.A., she's still considered an American citizen.
BSN: Take me back to when you were playing high school at Inglewood and getting recruited to Colorado. Did Bill Blair recruit you?
Vince Kelly: Yeah, (head coach) Bill Blair, and (assistant) Alvin Gentry was the main contact who was recruiting myself and Jay Humphries. Obviously, playing on a great high school team like Inglewood, being ranked the No. 1 team in the country in 1980 was a great achievement. And then to finish out our last year with 29 wins and no losses was even a bigger achievement.
We had such a close-knit team. Playing on a team like that really carries over into whatever you want to do in life. You can only achieve things if you have good people around you. Even if you have individual accolades, you need to be able to enjoy life in a team environment. Those are some of the things I try to pass on to my daughter.
I still keep in contact with some of the good friends I had in high school and at Colorado. It was a great life experience, living in Colorado, coming from L.A. It just opened up my eyes to a brighter world, coming from South Central (Los Angeles) where you're not exposed to a lot of things other than the negative things life has to offer. It was a great opportunity. And I cherish those four years I got to spend there and some of the people I got to meet there.
BSN: I'm curious how it is that you and Jay decided to come to Colorado. It wasn't like the Buffs were a Big Eight power at that time, and yet you guys came from this storied program at Inglewood. Why did you choose Colorado?
Vince Kelly: I narrowed my recruiting trips down to three schools. I went to the University of Iowa, when Lute Olson was coaching there. And I went to the University of Washington. Those were the only three schools that I considered — one in the Pac-10, one in the Big Ten and one in the Big Eight. Iowa City, coming from L.A., I didn't think I could adjust to that lifestyle too well. Washington was pretty good, but I think I blended in with the players at Colorado pretty well. I thought I could get more court time as a freshman there. And Boulder itself is a beautiful city. That's the primary reasons I chose Colorado.
I'm dying to get back there. I haven't been back probably since I left. But I'm looking forward to one day bringing my wife and daughter there and letting them see what a wonderful place it is.
BSN: How was the basketball different in Australia and Portugal compared to the States?
Vince Kelly: Australia, when I first came, basketball wasn't as big as it is now. Most players who came over here had to work as well as play. They were finding work doing various jobs just to help supplement their income.
In Portugal, it was more like gladiator basketball. You'd walk into some stadiums and there was a concrete floor. It's totally fenced off, with a 10-foot fence around the court just to keep the fans away. Every game, the refs would have police escorts. They were really fanatical fans. If they didn't like a call, they would throw coins on the court, or AA batteries. But the basketball was good.
I think I really grew as a player when I went to Portugal and I was given the freedom to do a lot more things on the court. When I first went over there I went to replace a player they weren't happy with. They said he wasn't scoring enough points. So once I got there, the pressure was on me because the player was still in the town. He was like a local hero; everybody loved him in that town and they wanted to know, ‘Who is this guy coming to replace him?' As soon as I got there, I was under the microscope. I stood up to the challenge, and the team I played for, Ginasio, I helped them win the second division and move up to the first division. It was a great experience.
Even though I didn't speak the language, I got to meet some nice people. Mario Elie (who later played in the NBA) was playing over there at the time and I got to know him and we became good friends.
BSN: You know, you're still No. 5 all-time on the Colorado career rebounding list.
Vince Kelly: That's something that really came natural to me. I was a physical type player. Unfortunately for me, it was a detriment, because I was always played out of position. When Tom Apke took over from Bill Blair, I had to guard the Steve Stepanoviches and the Waymon Tisdales. We didn't have a guy that could match strength for strength with some of those big guys. Because of that I didn't really get to grow as a small forward or a shooting guard pretty much until I was in Portugal.
But I still had great times back there, and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.