This article appears in the December 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
Whenever Curtis Kelly and Edgar Sosa go on the road for a tournament or basketball camp, the routine never changes. Ever since rooming together and copping co-MVP honors at a Hawaii tourney in 2004, the Rice teammates have been roommates every time.
While holed up in their hotel room, they usually talk most of the night away. The conversation often starts off with hoops, about what went right or wrong during the day and how they'll do even better the next day. From there, they talk about things most high school seniors talk about — girls, family and what pair of Jordans or Air Force 1's they want next.
"Curt and I have been playing together since the sixth grade," Sosa says. "He's one of my best friends. We talk about everything."
Inevitably, though, the conversation always shifts back to hoops. After all, it's what brought the two together in the first place. Ever since they first teamed up years ago, Kelly and Sosa have transformed into the area's most feared duo and one of the nation's top inside-outside threats.
Kelly is a 6-foot-8, 236-pound power forward who has committed to play college hoops at perennial March Madness contender UConn. The versatile big man is rated the nation's No. 38 recruit in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com.
Sosa, rated the nation's No. 44 recruit in the Class of 2006, is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard with a money 3-point stroke. He has committed to new Big East member Louisville to play for coach Rick Pitino, who produces NBA-caliber guards as often as Diddy changes names.
Last year, Kelly averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks per game while Sosa went for 17 points and seven assists per contest. Together, they led Rice to a 22-5 record and a berth in the CHSAA city finals.
In addition to sharing the court at Rice, they share the mutual dream of riding their immense hoop talent into success at the college level and into The League. They dream of reuniting at Madison Square Garden in Big East showdowns and eventually moving their families out of their rough neighborhoods with those first pro paychecks.
"We work hard because we know both of our families have tough situations and we'd like to get them out," Kelly says.
So far, everything's going according to plan.
During those restless nights on the road, they also discuss the ultimate homecoming — a potential March 2007 matchup between Louisville and UConn at Madison Square Garden for the Big East title.
"That's something we talk about the most," Sosa says. "We can't wait to play each other in the Big East or in the championship game at the Garden. When we play, we want to meet at half court and do some handshake."
And why shouldn't Sosa expect to see Kelly on the other side of the court? For almost half their lives, through good times and bad, they've been together.
When Kelly was academically ineligible as a sophomore, Sosa and fellow Class of 2006 stud Kashif Pratt made sure he stayed positive, went to the weight room and, most importantly, hit the books.
"Edgar's like a brother to me," Kelly says. "He's been so influential in my life, especially when I failed off the team. Edgar and Kashif stuck by me and made me work hard."
Thanks to the help from Sosa and Pratt, Kelly can look back on his sophomore-year suspension as the turning point in his young career.
"It helped me become a better person and changed my personality," Kelly says. "It showed me that nothing's gonna come easy because I can dribble a ball."
There was never any question about Kelly's physical ability. So once he got his academic problems settled, he was impossible to stop. And last year, things really came together for the duo. Kelly and Sosa turned into one of the most lethal tandems in the city once Sosa became the great point guard head coach Maurice Hicks and Kelly always thought he'd be.
There's no doubt they bring out the best in each other.
"We feed off each other's energy," Kelly says. "If I dunk it, he'll come up and yell in my face. When he plays with me, he has no choice but to get hyped because I get hyped and yell all the time. When he hits a layup and gets fouled and tries to look all smooth and cute, I'm right in his face."
Whatever they're doing, it's working.
Together, along with Pratt, they rolled into the city finals against Xaverian last season with dreams of a city title. It would have been sweet revenge for the Raiders, who were knocked out of the 2004 CHSAA city playoffs by the Clippers. This time, Kelly was certain the outcome would be different. But it wasn't. Despite Kelly's 19 points, Rice fell again, 67-66, after leading by nine points in the third quarter.
After the game, Hicks saw something in the locker room that impressed him more than any of Kelly's rim-rattling dunks or Sosa's picture-perfect 3-pointers.
Kelly and Sosa were crying, displaying the passion that Hicks loves so much. Hicks has sent more than 25 players to Division I colleges since he took over the head coaching reins at Rice in 1994, but this was something new.
"These guys cry when they lose because they really love what they're doing," Hicks says. "We've had some great players here who never shed a tear in a loss. I've seen kids when they were 10 lose and start to cry, but something happens by the time they're 16 and it's like, ‘Yeah, whatever.'"
Not with these two.
"Xaverian's been my curse, and last year it was Levance (Fields) and Saiquon (Stone) taking my dream away," Kelly says. "It motivates me to do my best now. I don't care if I score two points or 20, I'm gonna do whatever it takes to win a title. I have dreams about it, I have nightmares about it."
And that, more than anything else, is what unites Kelly and Sosa. Through all the fun on the road and all the agonizing in defeats, they are together for one last shot. For both, the future holds college scholarships, potential reunions at the Garden and possibly even NBA paychecks.
But for now that's going to have to wait. Kelly and Sosa have a city title to win.