In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor issue.
But, still, basketball players looking to commit this spring to a college find themselves in an odd spot in that they cannot make campus visits or meet with their potential coaches in person.
But CJ Kelly, who committed earlier this week to play for the University at Albany men’s basketball program, has a pretty good feel for head coach Will Brown. UAlbany recruited Kelly a bit out of high school, but the connection between the two goes back beyond that since Kelly’s father — Chris — played with Brown at Division II Dowling College on Long Island for three seasons in the 1990s.
“Every time I talk to coach Brown, he’ll tell me how he taught my dad how to shoot free throws,” Kelly said.
“Then, my dad will say how Will was always cheating when they played,” Kelly said with a laugh.
Brown graduated as Dowling’s leader in a variety of categories, including free-throw percentage, and as the program’s lone player to register at least 1,000 points and 500 assists. Kelly’s dad, who served as an assistant coach for the last two seasons for The College at Old Westbury’s Division III men’s basketball program, was a two-year captain at Dowling.
Kelly said he knew Brown a bit while growing up because of the coach’s connection with his father.
“But we’re speaking a lot more now,” Kelly said of his relationship with Brown.
Kelly, a 6-foot-5 guard from Long Island, said UAlbany’s recruitment of him started to pick up as the Great Danes were recruiting Jamel Horton, who committed last week to UAlbany. Horton played at Pratt Community College last season with Kelly, but the 22-year-old Kelly didn’t play beyond the first half of his first game after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee.
Kelly said his expectation is that he can begin basketball-related activity next month and will be ready to go for the 2020-21 season, which will serve as his redshirt junior season. Before heading to Pratt, Kelly was at Norfolk State for two seasons. After not playing as a true freshman, Kelly averaged 4.5 points in 12.3 minutes per game, and landed on the MEAC All-Rookie team and earned MEAC All-Tournament recognition as a redshirt freshman.
At UAlbany, Kelly said he should be able to provide defensive intensity along the perimeter and give the Great Danes another ball-handling option. At the moment, UAlbany’s incoming group of players is heavy on guards capable of creating off the dribble with four guards all standing 6-foot-5 or shorter. The Great Danes, though, still have two open scholarships for the 2020-21 season.
Kelly said he has some familiarity with the Albany area since he played in some AAU tournaments in the Capital Region and his older sister Symone Kelly played four seasons for the Siena women’s basketball program.
“But I won’t wear my Siena gear up there now,” Kelly said.