"Ryan has started for us since he was a freshman and now he's a junior," said Ravenscroft head coach Kevin Billerman. "He was 6-5 [as a freshman], 6-7 [as a sophomore] and now he's 6-9.5 without shoes. But he's always had good skills. Now his skills are getting to the point where they are excellent.
"He's a multi-dimensional player. He's able to post up, hit mid-range jump shots, shoot the ball from range when available and he's an excellent passer. Ryan brings that all to the table. And he's a tough matchup."
Growing a couple inches in the last year has certainly helped Kelly's stock among college coaches, but his transformation goes much further than that. His improvement has been well earned.
"The most important thing I've done is worked hard and gotten in the gym and the weight room," Kelly said. "Obviously I've worked on getting stronger in the weight room. And through AAU, playing against more athletic players was great for me. All those things put together helped me a ton.
"When I grew and got stronger, when college coaches first see that, they take a look -- that's obviously been really important."
The increased interest from the top conferences began near the end of the summer, as Virginia, Virginia Tech and NC State offered. Southern California followed suit shortly thereafter. Schools from the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big East attended his games or practices this fall.
UNC's Roy Williams and NCSU's Sidney Lowe were courtside to watch Kelly score 33 points on Friday night at the GSK Holiday Invitational. Kelly concluded the three-game event averaging 24.7 points per game and earning All-Tournament Team honors.
Afterwards, Kelly noted that he's by no means satisfied with his improvement to date.
"It's more of a goal and I don't think I'm at that goal yet," said Kelly, who is sure to appear in national Top 100 rankings this winter. "I'm only 16, a junior in high school, and have a year a half to go until I go to college. It's still a goal to me – getting better – and that's what I need to do."
Billerman added, "The college that gets him will get a multi-dimensional player. We think he's an excellent player and he's only going to get better."
With so much newfound interest, Kelly's recruitment is still in its early stages.
"I'm just taking it step by step," he said. "It's a really important decision for me, especially academically. I feel I'm a pretty good student and I want to get a good education in college. I want to get the opportunity to meet all the coaches and see them all play. I want to take my time and make the right decision."
Since the start of the basketball season, Kelly has made several trips to Chapel Hill, attending two games at the Smith Center, getting a tour of the facilities and even playing some pickup ball with the team. The Tar Heels haven't offered yet, though Kelly appears months away from taking the next step in his recruitment.
"I have no timeline at this point," he said. "I'm just trying to watch some games this winter when I can, meet all the people I can, and probably not until next spring make any shortening to my list."