Tre Kelly: Ready To Lead

Senior point guard Tre Kelly has waited for his turn, and he is now the unquestioned leader of the 2006 Gamecock basketball team. caught up with Kelly on Thursday afternoon, and he talked about his role as a leader this season, his expectations for the this year's squad, and how he feels about being overlooked in some of the pre-season publications.

Question: With the loss of Tarence Kinsey and Renaldo Balkman from last season, how do you see your role expanding this year?

Answer: Leadership. Tarence (Kinsey) led this team pretty well last season, and I had Carlos (Powell) when I was a sophomore. Now it's my turn and Brandon (Wallace's) turn to actually lead this team as seniors. That's all it takes. It takes leadership and trust, and that's what the team is built around. If we lead this team, we'll be fine.

Question: What are your goals heading into this season?

Answer: A successful year and an NCAA tournament appearance. We have two NIT Championships, and that's all that we've got. That was our second team ever to do that, but we're trying to move on to bigger and better things. So an NCAA tournament appearance is one (of our goals).

Question: How do you feel about Coach Odom labeling Dwayne Day the "X-factor" for this season?

Answer: We've seen what he can do. His freshman year he came in the Florida game at Florida and had 14 points. Last year he played a good stretch of games and shot the ball really well. We just need him to stay consistent. He's a great player, a great shooter, but he's doing more things better. He can put the ball on the ground better, he's playing better defense, and he's matured a lot as a person and as a basketball player.

Question: How did you guys match up so well with Florida last year considering that they went on to win the national championship?

Answer: I watched those guys deep in the tournament last year when they got to the elite eight, the final four, and definitely the national championship. A lot of teams didn't run the ball at them like we did. We kept the game up tempo, and we kept the game fast. When we had Balkman and Kinsey, we were running, so that's the thing. We've got to stay an up tempo team and keep the tempo of the game at our pace.

Question: Can you talk about replacing the personality of a Renaldo Balkman? Who do you see stepping into that role this season?

Answer: That's hard. A guy like that, it's hard to capture his personality. He's outgoing at all times, laughing, shaking his head, and running all over the place, but if we can combine a lot of personalities on this team, we probably could get to that, but no one person can really match the personality of a Renaldo Balkman.

Question: How have you grown as a player throughout your career at Carolina from being a score first player coming out of high school to now being near the top of the SEC in assists?

Answer: As far as my mental game, I don't think it's changed a lot, but my physical game has changed. I always thought as a point guard I had to score for my high school team, but once I got here, I had to distribute the ball as much as I can to stay on the floor.

Question: In the media guide you talk about envisioning yourself like Clyde Drexler. Is he a player you model your game after as both a scorer and a passer?

Answer: I envision that in my head, but I don't actually imitate his basketball game. I like imitating Isaiah (Thomas), Magic (Johnson), and those guys. They always helped their teammates more than just scoring the basketball.

Question: Is there any area of your game that you've focused on improving during the offseason?

Answer: Just scoring jump shots off the dribble. I see a lot of times where I'm either shooting the three or trying to go all the way to the basket, but to just put it up when I see a big man coming. Once I get past my man, I want to just be able to pull up and shoot it. Definitely my defense on the ball, I've worked on that a lot. My quickness and trying to slide my feet laterally.

Question: You're a veteran now not only on this team, but also in the SEC. Do you want to make a final statement in your last go round this season?

Answer: I'm going to just play like I've been doing. There's a lot of things that I'm mad at right now looking at these magazines and not being talked about. There's a lot of guys over top of me that shouldn't be, but I don't think I need to make a statement myself, I'll let my game make the statement.

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