Tre' Kelley had an outstanding basketball career at South Carolina. A native of Washington, D.C., he was a three-time all-conference selection and made the all-metropolitan team twice at Dunbar High School.
Kelley averaged 29 points, 5 rebounds and 8.3 assists his senior year, and although he was offered a scholarship by UConn, Miami, Georgia Tech and West Virginia, he chose to play for the Gamecocks.
Kelley became the starting point guard as a sophomore, and had 8 points and 3 assists in USC's miraculous win over St. Joseph's in the championship game of the 2005 National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
As a junior, he set the school record for starts in a season with 38. He scored 20 points and 7 assists as the Gamecocks defended their NIT title in 2006. He was named to the 2006 SEC All-Tournament Team, the 2006 NIT All-Tournament Team.
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As a senior, he averaged 18.9 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.6 rebounds, and received the 2007 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, as well as being a 2007 Chip Hilton Award Finalist. Kelley was named to the 2007 Coaches First Team All-SEC, the 2007 AP First Team All-SEC, and he was the team MVP.
He is No. 2 all time in games played (134), No. 3 in assists (510), No. 3 in three-point field goals attempted (503), No. 3 in minutes played (3,956), No. 3, in 3 PT FG made (167), and No. 9 all-time in career points (1,488).
After not being selected in the 2007 NBA Draft, Kelley continued to pursue his dream of playing in the league with a resume that would make a world traveler envious. In 2007-08 he played in Croatia and Greece, and in Israel in '08-'09. In '10, he had spent time in camp with the Memphis Grizzlies, and played in three countries – Lebanon, Belgium and China. In '11 he played briefly for the Austin (Texas) Toros, which is a developmental team for the San Antonio Spurs. He finished the year in Italy and Venezuela.
I caught up with Kelley in Austin, where he has spent the last two seasons with the Toros. (Kelley has since been traded to the D-League's Sioux Falls Skyforce, an affiliate of the Miami Heat.)
“It's been a wild ride,” he said. “I have gotten to travel all over the world and see places I would never have imagined. I feel each stop has helped get me closer to my ultimate dream of playing in the NBA, and I think I've got a shot.”
In all his travels he has kept up with the Gamecocks.
“I've watched some games on television, and I'm always watching the scores. I'm planning to come back and see a a game or two, when I get some time off in January or February.
“I'm a friend of Frank Martin's. He followed my high school and AAU career, and actually recruited me when he was at Miami. We became acquainted again when he was at Kansas State.
“He has the right mindset and great enthusiasm and passion for the game, and I think he'll have the program back where it needs to be very soon. He's recruited well, and you can tell by he way the guys play for him that they believe in what he's trying to do with the program.
Kelley averaged 14.2 points and 5.1 assists in 10 games (eight starts) with Austin this season.
He has fond memories of his days at USC.
“Not many people get out of the northeast Washington, D.C., area I grew up in,” he said. “I loved the University of South Carolina, the school, the basketball program, and everybody who was involved in my four years there, especially the fans. Coach (Dave) Odom was a great coach, and I think the world of him. South Carolina gave me a great opportunity to succeed in my basketball career and in academics.
“I'm proud of the numbers I put up, and the way I conducted myself during my four years. Winning the two NIT titles was very special. I had some great teammates, who I am in touch with to this day. We left some things on the table, but overall I think it was a great career. I enjoyed every minute of it, and the Garnet and Black will always be in my heart.”