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Prep Basketball: Former Charger excels

KELLY FINDS PLACE WHERE HE FITS IN

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

PETERSBURG—When Rashard Kelly was a toddler, his family had a feeling he was headed toward a future in basketball.

Tammy Kelly often had to get her son to stop bouncing the ball around her hair salon in Fredericksburg when he was 2.

Rashard Kelly, who went to Chancellor as a freshman, is drawing Division I recruiting interest. (Photo by: Elijah Nouvelage/The Free Lance-Star)

And when Rashard began playing in youth leagues at the YMCA in Spotsylvania County, he often frustrated parents in attendance as he blocked shot after shot.

Lewis Geter, the basketball director at the YMCA, called Kelly “the Shaq of the 7-to-9-year old age group.”

“A lot of parents would get upset because he was always the biggest kid,” Tammy Kelly said. “I would hear some of the parents saying, ‘You have to play fair. Stop trying to block all the shots.’ And they usually thought he was older than he was. They used to ask to see his birth certificate.”

Kelly has found a place where he fits in.

After one year at Chancellor High School and two seasons at Bishop O’Connell (a private school in Arlington), Kelly is a 6-foot-7 starting forward for the Massanutten Military Academy post-graduate team.

Massanutten, located in Woodstock, is 20–1 and one of the highest-ranked prep schools in the nation. Kelly’s one of three high school seniors on a team stocked with Division I recruits.

“I wasn’t really satisfied with what I got out of O’Connell,” Kelly said. “Coming here, I’m playing against people who are 19 and 20 day in and day out, and I’m only 17. College coaches see that, and it shows that I’m ready.”

Kelly’s other 11 teammates are fifth-year players.

Massanutten’s schedule consists of post-graduate schools, junior varsity teams at Division I programs and junior colleges.

“I’m going against grown men,” Kelly said.

Still, Kelly is averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds per game and making an impression on college coaches.

Massanutten head coach Chad Myers said Boston College is recruiting Kelly most heavily. He’s also receiving interest from Delaware, DePaul, George Mason, Seton Hall and Utah.

Kelly recently took an official visit to Boston College and pondered giving the Eagles an oral commitment. However, he said he wants to wait until after the season to make a decision.

Boston College has received a commitment from Kelly’s teammate, Garland Owens, but returning to Massanutten for a post-grad year is also an option for Kelly.

Rashard Kelly is being recruited by Boston College and has also heard from Delaware, DePaul and George Mason. (Photo by: Elijah Nouvelage/The Free Lance-Star)

“They want us to come in next year and try to change the culture around the system,” Kelly said of B.C. “Right now they have a lot of shooters and they don’t really go at it. They’re kind of soft. If I go there, they want us to mix up the culture and bring in, not that rough lifestyle, but we’re not afraid of anything.”

Myers appreciates the tenacity.

Kelly has started every game and is playing 25 minutes out of 40 per contest. Myers said Kelly works relentlessly to get better. He said Kelly was already an outstanding rebounder when he enrolled in Massanutten, but wanted to make offensive improvements.

“I loved how tough of a kid he was, how physical he was, how he battled anybody, even guys that were a couple inches taller than him,” Myers said. “I think the biggest thing I wanted him to improve on and he wanted to improve on was getting a better handle on the ball, getting better shooting the ball. He’s definitely come a long way in all those areas.”

Kelly said his game is still evolving. He said he’s grown tremendously since he was a starter for Chancellor as a freshman in the 2009–10 season.

Kelly said he never wanted to leave the Chargers, but his parents encouraged the move.

“I invest a lot in him when it comes to basketball,” Tammy Kelly said. “And once he got to high school, the high school level wasn’t what I expected. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve invested too much in him to let him play in this area.’ So I thought it was best for him to play up north where it was much more competition.”

Kelly said he’s now grateful for the push. He struggled initially at Bishop O’Connell, but became a starter his junior season.

He said he’s finally found the perfect fit at Massanutten even though it’s located in a “one-way street of a town.”

“He was kind of worried at first because it’s a military school,” Tammy Kelly said. “But once he got there and got settled he told me, ‘Mom, I couldn’t have made a better choice.’ Once he told me that, I knew he was happy.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2013/01/21/prep-basketball-former-charger-excels/