NBPA: Ryan Kelly Spotlight

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- A year ago the fastest riser in the class was Tyler Zeller. This year it's been Ryan Kelly. Thought to be a mid-major prospect just over a year ago, Kelly's steady improvement has made him one of the top big men in attendance at this week's NBA Top 100 Camp.

For Kelly and those close to him, his improvement comes as no surprise

"I always thought I could be good and that's why I kept working," said the 6-9 rising senior forward from Raleigh (N.C.) Ravenscroft. "My parents knew I'd get a lot better, my coach knew I'd get a lot better."

The improvement has been apparent across the board. He's more skilled with the ball, his shot is more accurate and has deeper range, his movement is more fluid and he's getting stronger with the ball and in the paint. How has he done it? It's no secret. Just dedication and hard work.

"Every morning before school I get up at 6 to go shoot and get shots up and I work out every day after school lifting and shooting," Kelly said. "I don't want to level off, I want to continue to get better. That's my goal. I've got a level head, I know I'm not the best out there and I need to keep getting better."

Humble and hard-working. With that mentality, it's no wonder he's made such progress in the last year. Yet his drive hasn't slowed and he's well aware of what aspects of his game still need considerable work.

"Certainly the one that always comes to mind with everybody is my strength, but also my defensive rebounding [needs improving] and my defense against the quicker offensive player," Kelly noted.

The Tar Heel staff first caught wind of Kelly's progress last summer, so they began watching him in summer ball and workouts. That was followed by games throughout his junior season and then came the scholarship offer this spring.

"I think they saw me getting better, saw the potential to get even better and felt like I could be a pretty good player -- especially in their system," Kelly said.

According to Kelly, UNC's recruiting pitch to him is that the university and basketball program are the right match for him athletically, socially and academically.

"Coach Williams said he felt like I'd fit in with the other players very well and the school very well – academically and with the student body – and how I'd fit into his [playing style] with my abilities as a basketball player."

And he's hearing more of the same this week at the NBPA Camp. He's roommates and teammates with UNC commitments Leslie McDonald and Kendall Marshall, and they haven't been shy in their recruiting efforts.

"Kendall's a great guy, so is Leslie," Kelly said. "They just made it clear that they'd love to play with me.

"They are great guys and it's been great to hang out with them. Not only are they going to Carolina, but they are great players and you like to play with great players."

The Tar Heels are one of nine schools on Kelly's list, with the others being Wake Forest, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Stanford, Georgetown, NC State and Davidson.

"I'm starting to [sort them out] but I still have a long way to go," Kelly said. "Luckily I've had a chance to visit them all at least once."

He attended NC State's team camp last week and will be at UNC's team camp next week. The following week, on his trip up to D.C. for the USA Basketball Trials, he plans to arrive a day early for a chance to re-visit Georgetown. After a few more weeks of summer ball, he'll begin to narrow down his list.

"That's the plan at this point," Kelly said. "My list is at nine schools right now and probably by the end of July I'll get it down to four or five and from there I can take my official visits."

But that doesn't necessarily mean his recruitment will carry through the fall.

"Truthfully, if I really felt that gut feeling, I could make a decision [sooner]," he admitted.

Ryan Kelly Profile

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