Centennial’s Kelly has elevated game on AAU circuit

Thursday, July 12, 2007 at 12:55am

There have been points during the summer break when Brian Kelly has forced his son to take time off from basketball.

Kelly, the basketball coach at Centennial, will encourage his son to go swimming with friends, or he’ll schedule a family trip to Dollywood or to a family member’s cabin on the lake.

It’s been that sort of summer for Kelly’s son Drew, a rising junior at Centennial who has elevated his game and name recognition significantly over the past month.

Drew Kelly is a member of the Nashville Celtics AAU team. Over the past few months, his play on the AAU tour has propelled him from mid-major prospect to blue chip BCS conference commodity.

“That’s my job as a parent — to make sure the dead period is absolutely dead,” the elder Kelly said. “His mind and his body needed time to heal.”

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Drew.

He already has scholarship offers from most of the local mid-major programs – Belmont, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee among others. But he’s drawing serious interest from the likes of Kentucky and Tennessee, now too.

“I had [a few offers from local programs] during my sophomore season,” Kelly said. “But I went to the Real Deal on the Hill [AAU tournament] in Arkansas, and then everybody started calling me.”

Kelly has the sort of game college programs would certainly covet. He’s grown to 6-7 and 245 pounds, so he’s a natural post player. But because Cougar opponents often single him out, sometimes even triple-teaming him in the paint, Kelly has had to develop his perimeter game.

Playing for CHS, his dad has altered the offense to ensure his star player more shots. On the AAU side, Celtics coach Alex Waddey has played a role in improving Kelly’s ballhandling and shooting.

“Coach pulled me aside and said I needed to work on my ballhandling, shooting and now I’m working on a left-handed baby hook shot,” Kelly said.

As evidenced by the fact he has to force his son to enjoy his summer break, the elder Kelly points out work ethic has never been a problem for Drew.

“He’s the sort of kid that if he’s going to do something, he’s going to go all out,” Kelly said.

And the AAU July grind doesn’t bother Kelly in the least. Yes, he’s getting hounded by college coaches and yes, his weekends are booked up traveling to tournaments across the country.

But playing basketball daily and having the likes of UT coach Bruce Pearl hit up his cell phone aren’t exactly turn offs to a hoops junkie like Kelly.

“Honestly, I think it’s fun. I love it,” Kelly said. “It’s my dream come true.”

Kelly has basketball in his blood. His grandfather was a college assistant coach for 30-plus years. His dad coached in the college ranks as well before coming to Centennial.

“It doesn’t bother me, because I was born to do this,” Kelly said. “From the time my dad put a basketball in my hands, I’ve loved it.”

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