By Cardell Dudley
In sports, every generation produces greats that names stay relevant way past their playing days. However in basketball, this is especially true. I graduated from high school in 2002 and my high school class of basketball of players were special to say the least. Back in 2002 around the DMV, you heard about Carmelo Anthony from Baltimore killing everyone at Oak Hill, JJ Redick down in Virginia shooting dudes eyes out and Travis Garrison doing work at DeMatha among others, all three would end up being McDonalds & Jordan Brand All Americans. As I said, it was a SPECIAL class. Although, there was one player out of DC, I kept hearing was the best guard (if not player) in the DMV, and his name was Tre Kelley. The Dunbar (DC) great resume while at Dunbar was and STILL is ridiculous. Two time All Met (2002,2003), three time All DCIAA All Conference Selection (2001-2003), DCIAA Champion and averaged 29 points, 8.3 assist and 5 rebounds per game his senior year. Yes, Kelley got it done! Kelley would take his game down south, and play four years for the University of South Carolina. At South Carolina, Kelley would emerge as one of the best players in school history, finishing his career third all time in assists (510), third all time in 3 PT's made (167), and ninth all-time in career points (1488) along with being named first team All-SEC his senior year after averaging 18.9 points, 5.1 assist, and 2.6 rebounds per game . After going undrafted in 2007, Kelley has played professionally all over the world which included stints in the NBA. Now, Kelley is making noise in the NBA Developmental League running point for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Currently averaging 19.6 points, 4.8 assist and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three point range, Kelley's numbers speak for themselves as he is hell bent on getting to and making an impact in the NBA. I recently had a chance to catch up with the DC great and talk about his upbringing, his incredible run at Dunbar, playing in the SEC and his quest to stick in the NBA.
Below is an excerpt of the interview with Tre Kelley. The full interview will be in the next issue of Finest Magazine 8
FM- Lets start from the beginning. How were you introduced to the game of basketball?
TK-I introduced myself to the game by watching the 1991 NBA Finals. Jordan, Magic and Scottie interested me in a way where I couldn't wait to see the next game. After watching, I immediately had a desire to play one day.
FM- For a lot of athletes it seems that there is always a mentor along the way who proved to be vital in the athletes lives. Who was that for you?
TK- Two people stick out to me immediately. One is Delonte Taylor. A lot, if not all in our city consider him a legend. He played short stints in the NBA for the Bullets and the Spurs. He came into my like when I was about 11 years old. From then on we have been very close and in my childhood, he gave all of the right, needed advice that would help me propel as a person and a basketball player. He critiqued my game to the Tee, from the time I was in elementary school to even now. A lot of my success and mental capacity as it pertains to the game of basketball, was helped by him. Another is one of my best friends, Curtis Chambers. Curtis is the organizer and founder of the infamous Alldàz sportswear in N.E. Washington DC. I met Curtis at his store in 1999, and from then on we have been the best of friends. I considered him a mentor because he was older and from an older guy to a younger guy, the best thing you can do is be genuine and give lively advice. He provided that. He helped me through a lot of personal situations in my life that allowed me to become a man the right way and stay away from the negative things that the DC streets has to offer. He attended my games at Dunbar and provided the utmost support. Our bond since the start was mentorship enough to help me propel in certain areas of my life.
Kelley's Euro League Cibona Highlights
FM- Growing up which players did you study to help improve your game?
TK- No point guard from Washington, D.C. In the 1990's and early 2000's could ever consider themselves a DC point guard without studying the legend, Curt Smith. The floater, the ball handling, the savvy and what he possessed as a basketball player was intriguing to watch. After seeing him score 40's, 50's, 60's and even 70 in games, you had to steal things from his game. NBA players I watched was Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Their savvy and basketball court awareness were neck and neck and second to none.
FM- The resume at Dunbar speaks for itself. You emerged as one of the best guards in the DMV and country at Dunbar. Averaging 29 PPG, 5 RPG and 8.3 APG your senior year. Did you expect to leave your mark like that or was it just something that happen when all of the pieces (the work ethic, talent, drive, opportunity) fell into place?
TK- Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I was considered one of the top junior high school players in the city and I just wanted to get better from there. At that time, you just thought about getting better each season and as a 9th grader, just fitting in and making some type of impact was my goal. By the time I ended I was the leading scorer in DCIAA history earning two Gatorade player of the year awards for the city and winning a DCIAA title and it was all I could ask for. I worked hard and wanted to leave a mark that no one or very few had left and I'm thankful and honored that people still remember those years.
FM-Which schools offered you and why did you ultimately choose to sign with South Carolina?
TK- Georgia Tech, UConn, Miami, West Va, and Syracuse... Unfortunate situations not caused by myself regarding my AAU experience prohibited me from signing with one of these top schools. I received a call from Rick Duckett (assistant coach at USC) in the summer of 2002 saying that him and coach Dave Odom highly regarded me to come to their school on full scholarship. They both visited me in N.E DC at my Grandmother's home and said a lot of things. All I can say was I pleased and ultimately every single word they said that would happen over four years, happened at that school. I couldn't have asked for more. Dave Odom is the best coach I could've played for and my career there was a success.
FM-You came to South Carolina looked at as a scoring point guard, however you proved by the time your career was over that you were a point guard that can do it all finishing 3rd all time in career assist (510) and points (1,488). Was that a misconception about your game or something you had to develop into?
TK-Definitely a misconception. I still avg more than 8 assist in high school while scoring 30's 40's and even 50... Coach Odom always labeled me as a point guard who can score and that's exactly what I was/am.. Scoring was something I had to do while I was in high school in order for us to win games. Even in college, I didn't have to score until my senior season so I led the conference in assists my junior season and when I had to, led the conference in scoring my senior year.
FM-You have put in work at every level, when father time finally lets you know that it is time, what would you want people to say regarding Tre Kelly as a man and ball player?
TK-I want people to say that they know I never gave up on anything. To say that I am the toughest or best player they have seen as some of my college coaches and teammates have said, is all you can ask for when you're done. I work extremely hard and I'm relentless at pursuing my goals and getting closer to my destiny, and I want to be known for that.
Full Interview from Tre Kelley will be in the next issue of Finest Magazine coming early November