Kelly, Herd rising to conference’s elite

Marshall University’s star basketball player James Kelly is on track to becoming something special.
The red-shirt junior recently registered his 10th consecutive double-double of the season against Old Dominion University. Even more impressive, Kelly landed the game-clinching 3-point shot against the Monarchs to give his team the victory.
Though his future looks bright, the power forward had to overcome obstacles to get to this point.
Kelly joined the Herd after departing from the University of Miami men’s basketball team in 2014 and was forced to sit out last season at Marshall because of NCAA regulations.
“It was mind-boggling because I wanted to be on the court, but I couldn’t when they were down,” Kelly said. “I wanted to go and score.”
The Ann Arbor, Michigan native said he had to remain positive and encourage his teammates in practice despite his absence on the court.
Kelly said he received encouragement from his head coach Dan D’Antoni, which helped him enter this season with the right mindset.
“He would tell me I was the best player and I didn’t believe him,” Kelly said. “But he always reminded me of the potential I had.”
Kelly said he did not expect to have the season he has had thus far.
With a seven-game losing streak in the beginning of the season to now leading Conference USA in double doubles, his performance has noticeably spiked.
The 6-foot-8 forward said he thinks star athletes have to take chances when the game in on the line, which is precisely what Kelly did Saturday against the Monarchs.
“I just felt it, like, I needed to take that shot,” Kelly said. “I focused on that shot. And luckily, it went in. I didn’t see nobody. I just shot it.”
The Herd is 6-1 against other Conference-USA teams, but it has struggled with teams that are not within its conference, posting a 4-9 record in non-conference games.
While confidence may play a part in why the team falls short against schools in bigger conferences, Kelly, who transferred from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), said a lack of confidence is not a trait he posses.
“It’s all mental, really,” Kelly said. “There are five other guys out there playing the same sport you are playing, trying to do the same thing you are doing. And that’s what I try to tell my team.”
Kelly said despite the Herd’s slow start, he feels his team has a very good chance of winning its first-ever C-USA championship this season.
Danielle Wright can be contacted at [email protected]