Curtis Kelly Dazzles in Springfield

Curtis Kelly and his Rice teammates celebrated Martin Luther King Day by putting together an impressive win over Jason Bennett and the Arlington Country Day School. Kelly led Rice to a 29-22 first half lead with 12 points, going six for 16 from the floor plus five boards and a blocked shot. His most memorable points came in the waning seconds of the first half when Kelly threw down a ferocious one handed dunk off a nice feed from his teammate and Louisville bound Point Guard, Edgar Sosa.

Kelly continued his offensive dominance in the second half, adding another 14 points on six for 13 shooting and two out of three from the line.  Kelly led all scorers, finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal.


Kelly demonstrated throughout the game why he is considered one of the most versatile forwards in the 2006 class by scoring in a variety of ways.  Arlington Country Day tried to get back into the game by pressing full court, but Kelly made them pay for that.  After receiving the inbounds pass around mid-court, Kelly showed his exceptional open court speed by driving past the last defender and laying it in as he was fouled.  He then knocked down the free throw, completing the thee-point-play.  Later in the 2nd half Kelly showed his above the rim game by going up and throwing one down off an ally-oop pass.  He finished his second half scoring by knocking down an elbow J at the 1:30 mark, putting Rice up 62-51 and ultimately putting the game away for good.


Although Kelly was credited with no assists he showed his passing ability just moments after hitting that foul line jump shot, by executing a perfectly thrown bounce pass to his streaking teammate, Chris Fouch.  Unfortunately no assist was earned because Fouch's layup was erased by the 7-2 Arlington Country Day Center, Jason Bennett, who tallied his seventh block of the afternoon.  Fouch wasn't the only one who struggled to get his shot over the intimidating Bennett.  Kelly had his share of wild shots altered or blocked by the 7-2 center who continues to show improvement, notably on the defensive end of the floor.  Stats don't always tell the whole story, as Kelly had a few nice passes earlier in the game that also went for not as a result of either missed layups or blocked shots.


After the game, Kelly had this to say about the opposing big man, "He [Bennett] is one of the toughest to go up against.  You have to use your quickness to get around him as quick as possible before he can come around from behind and block your shot. I tried to catch him with a couple of fakes and short jump shots."


It doesn't take long to realize that Kelly's game is tailor-made for UConn's high-octane style of play.  Kelly's high school coach, Mo Hicks, said, "He's averaging over 25 points a game right now, doing a real good job for us all around.  Playing good defense.  He's a good transition player who runs the floor well.  He sees the floor well.  He has a good turnaround jumpshot and plays above the rim."


Even though Kelly is already showing high-major skills, Hicks realizes that there is plenty of room for improvement.  "He has to improve his strength and conditioning.  The stronger he gets, the better he's going to be.  Right now he's shooting from 15.  If he can increase that and shot the 19 footer, 20 footer, it will open up a whole new world for Curtis Kelly."


Apparently, Kelly is embracing his coach's instruction.  "I'm working on my strength, ball handling and jump shooting," replied Kelly who added that the UConn coaching staff has encouraged him to work hard in both the weight room and in the classroom.  Evidently, his hard work in the classroom is paying off as Kelly made the honor roll this past grading period and is on track to repeat the feat.


As to why he chose UConn, Kelly said, "It's their up-tempo style of play and that they allow their bigs to play outside a little bit more."  He then added, "Jim Calhoun, that's a big enough reason right there!"


Considering Calhoun's success at preparing skilled big men for the next level, it's easy to see why Kelly chose to hone his game at Connecticut.

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