Curtis Kelly Heals, Looks Forward

Curtis Kelly sat in the media room last weekend with a pair of ice bags draped around his ankles. "I can't run as fast as I am used to or jump at all," he said. "I've been trying to finesse things too much. I look at guys here like Brandan Wright and Vernon Macklin, and they've been dunking everything."

 
"I think I would be among the top five players in the camp if not for the injury," he added. "The injury has slowed me down, and I've been thinking about it mentally too much, worrying about how my feet are landing."
 
While in Indianapolis, Kelly consulted a doctor. He was told that he has a sprained right ankle and a swollen ligament in his left ankle.
 
"The right one affects my jumping," he explained. "But this one, my left one, hurts me every time I run -- and that's my game, running and jumping."
 
Kelly, who measured in at 6-7, 236-pounds for this past week's Nike All-American Camp, said he could even miss the New York Gauchos' first game on Tuesday at the Nike Peach Jam Tournament.
 
Kelly is in Augusta now after the conclusion of the Nike All-American Camp. He played in the second of two all-star games on Saturday night, tallying seven points, four rebounds and two assists in a blowout win.
 
"I am going to rest for the next two days and probably sit out the first game of the Peach Jam," he said. "We'll see how I feel on Tuesday morning."
 
The Nike Camp capped a whirlwind two-week period for Kelly, who selected Connecticut over Texas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Florida just days before the start of the July evaluation period.
 
"Three weeks ago, I was going to take all five of my official visits," he admitted. "In reality, UConn was leading all the way, but I didn't tell anyone that because I didn't want other schools to start backing out."
 
An unofficial visit to Storrs in June with family members helped sway Kelly's decision to become a Husky.
 
"Coach Calhoun sat down with my mom and dad, and he told me that he thought he could help get me to the NBA," Kelly said. "He didn't promise me a starting position or playing time, because that depends on how hard I work, and I am ready to take charge."
 
"I felt Coach Calhoun was the most truthful and caring," Kelly continued. "He promised that even if I got hurt, that I would still get my college education."
 
For a long time, rumors swirled that Kelly's interest in the NBA was greater than any college aspirations. But the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement put a crimp in that idea, requiring a minimum age of 19 and a player to be one year removed from his senior year of high school.
 
"Of course, it forced my hand," Kelly said. "It made me focus more on college. The NBA thing was in my head, but in my heart, I really wanted to go to college."
 
The rule gave Kelly mixed feelings.
 
"I agree with the rule but I think it's unfair," he said. "The NBA has been luring kids out of high school, first there were two kids, but in the last few years, there has been a pattern of six or seven guys or now even 10 or 12."
 
"I was shocked and surprised when I heard the news on ESPN," Kelly continued. "I called everyone and asked them, 'Are you serious?' They really did that?"
 
There was plenty of irony in Kelly's timing on his college decision. UConn is expected to absorb heavy losses next spring due to graduation and early NBA defections.
 
"The funny thing is that I committed to UConn about 15 minutes before Charlie Villanueva got drafted," Kelly reflected. "At 8:05 p.m., I called my mom to tell her I was going to UConn, and then around 8:15 or 8:20, Charlie got drafted. It seemed like a blessing to me."
 
Villanueva, a Brooklyn N.Y., native, left UConn after his sophomore year to test the NBA Draft waters and was selected seventh overall by the Toronto Raptors.
 
That same karma may have worked in the Huskies' favor when it came to Kelly, as Villanueva was the third UConn player in the last two years to be drafted in the lottery as an underclassman. The other two were Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon.
 
Next spring, forwards Rudy Gay and Josh Boone could very well follow suit. "They [UConn coaching staff] told me those guys would probably leave," Kelly said. "That probably had an impact on my decision."
 
Based on his play this past spring, Kelly projects as a power forward at the college level. His overall skill set is not strong enough yet to play the three slot, though he is a very active if not at times unorthodox player.
 
"I will probably play either the three or four," Kelly opined. "It really just depends on me and how hard I work at it."

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