Making the best of a difficult and disappointing situation has been Kylor Kelley’s charge this basketball season.
A stress fracture discovered in his left foot in October has limited what the future Oregon State big man has been able to do on the court this winter.
A 7-foot, 215-pound sophomore at Lane Community College in Eugene, Kelley isn’t at 100 percent but is averaging 8.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 4.5 blocks in 26.6 minutes this season.
In his own words, he’s been “struggling a little bit.”
“I’ve been trying to let it heal,” said Kelley, who doesn’t practice much and sat out all three days between games before playing in his team’s contest at Linn-Benton last Wednesday. “But once it heals, I think I’ll be back to my regular self.”
Kelley didn’t play in six straight games in December and eight of the Titans’ first 11 games due to the injury. Lane’s home game last Saturday against Portland was his eighth straight on the court since then.
He can still shoot, but what’s holding him back most is his ability to get up and down the floor as fast as he usually does.
“Frustrating,” Lane coach Bruce Chavka said when asked to sum up Kelley’s season. “He’s pretty frustrated, we’re frustrated. He doesn’t practice very much because of his foot. We try to rest him for games.”
Kelley has season highs of 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and nine blocks. He equaled his season-high block total in last Saturday’s home game against Portland. His 49 blocks are second-most in the 32-team Northwest Athletic Conference.
Chavka said Kelley’s biggest impact for Lane (10-9, 2-5 NWAC South) has been his shot-blocking. The injury has hurt him offensively because his timing is off from limited practice time.
Teammate Tayler Marteliz says Kelley’s impact is widespread.
“He gets a lot of rebounds, he alters a lot of shots,” Marteliz said. “He’s been developing the role of a leader, so he’s been helping us all around.”
Kelley signed with Oregon State this past November and is expected to be on the Corvallis campus this summer.
A Gervais High grad who played one year at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Kelley said OSU was the right place because of the coaches and it allows him to stay close to home. His mother, Shandel Jump, lives in Gervais, about 15 miles northeast of Salem.
Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle describes Kelley as long, skilled and athletic, a player who can handle the ball and score from inside and out.
“Needs size and strength but has a great feel for the game,” said Tinkle, who attended last week’s game at Linn-Benton along with associate head coach Kerry Rupp. “I think he can be a dominating rebounder as well as he gains strength.”
Linn-Benton coach Everett Hartman also sees the potential.
“He’s a really good passer out of the post,” Hartman said. “I think his offensive game has to get a little bigger, stronger. Looks pretty thin out there. But he obviously can rebound, blocks shots, and like I said he can really pass the ball. I think he’ll be all right.”
Kelley has grown used to being the tallest player on his team.
He was 6-8 as a high school junior, 6-10 as a senior and reached 7 feet while at Northwest Christian, an NAIA Division II school.
This season, he continues to be matched against smaller players.
“I try to do my post moves on them but somehow they get around me and get the ball,” Kelley said. “It’s easier to play against guys my size, I think. I’m quicker than most big men.”
Before he gets to Oregon State, Kelley plans to work more on playing with his back to the basket and on his physicality. He also hopes to gain 20 to 25 pounds.
Kelley has found success facing the basket but will need to develop an inside game when he makes the jump to the Division I level next season.
“It’s been fun having a guy that big who can face up,” Chavka said. “When we need him to get on the block and get a bucket, he’s not the best. He’s not very comfortable with that back-to-the-basket thing. I think Oregon State will take care of that and help him come along, make strides in that.”