Recent Gainesville High grad Brent Kelly wasn’t going to settle for just any offer to play college basketball.
After a four-year career with the Red Elephants that saw Kelly featured in a prominent role on the team since he was a sophomore, the young guard was looking for a program that fully appreciated what he brought to the table. Following a lengthy recruiting process that went later into the year than Kelly or Gainesville coach Chuck Graham had been expecting, Kelly finally found his new home when he signed on to play with Truett McConnell on Tuesday in Cleveland, Ga.
“It was a dream,” Kelly said. “I dreamed of that growing up, to sign to play college ball, to make my mom happy and my family and my coaches. To make everyone happy. The feeling was overwhelming.”
The decision came after a last minute push from Truett McConnell to secure Kelly’s services. After sending in his film to the school, Kelly began receiving calls and text messages from the school’s coaching staff.
He was immediately struck by the persistence the team’s coaches showed in recruiting him.
“Most of the schools really fell off,” Kelly said. “Half the time, they stopped texting. But Truett, they kept hitting me up.”
The school brought Kelly in for a visit and a workout, and he immediately felt at home.
“I liked it because they were focused on me,” he said. “They asked a lot of questions about what I liked. And I liked the campus. I liked the view, the mountains in the background. I liked all that.”
When Gainesville basketball trainer Rudy Deaza — a Truett McConnell alumnus himself — affirmed Kelly’s good feelings, he knew he had found the program for him. He returned a week later to sign and officially begin the next chapter of his basketball career.
Graham, who believes Kelly is “in the conversation of being one of the best on ball defenders in the state,” sees the move as a slam dunk for Truett McConnell and Kelly both. In his time coaching Kelly at Gainesville, Graham came to know the young guard for his consistent positivity and work ethic.
“It’s something about just coming to practice and going to school and just doing that same thing, having that level of consistency every day,” Graham said. “Not so much focusing on the outcome, but just focusing on look, I’m going to get better than I was the day before.”
Off the court, Kelly’s calm demeanor smoothed over Graham’s transition from assistant to head coach this past season, setting an example as a senior for the rest of the team to follow. On the court, he was equally essential.
No matter the situation, Graham could always count on Kelly to keep his head on straight and steer the ship when things were looking dire.
“When we faced any kind of adversity, (Kelly) had kind of a calming effect,” Graham said. “I think that put us over the hump in a lot of games.”
Graham expects Kelly to bring that same impact to Truett McConnell, and so does Kelly.
After winning nearly 100 games in his high school career, Kelly plans to hold the same lofty bar for his new team.
“My goal is just to help us win games,” he said.
Graham predicts Kelly will manage to get the job done.
Having watched Kelly grow up from a freshman to the player and person he is today, Graham believes the young guard possesses the right combination of winning nature and high work ethic to succeed at the next level. Now that Kelly has made his choice on where he will play, the wins are sure to follow according to Graham.
“I’m looking for big things from Brent,” he said. “His impact should be instant, because I know he’s going to put the work in.”