Out in Sioux Falls, the Miami HEAT are trying to develop talent across the board; executives, coaches, potential players for the future, as well as current players in the form of NBA assignee like Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes. But as fate would have it, all this prospective talent is leaning on a basketball veteran, who is yet to appear in an NBA game himself: Tre Kelley.
The front office has displayed faith and appreciation in Kelley time and time again. First year head coach Dan Craig is depending on the guard to effectively run his team's offense, whereas Kelley's teammates (those from the NBA club and those fellow full-time minor leaguers) hope he can find them in the right spots to succeed on the court.
That's a lot of pressure for someone who is trying to make his own mark with NBA scouts and executives, but it's nothing Kelley can't handle. He's been faced with (and subsequently conquered) different adversities on and off the court before. If anything, having such talent all around him (let alone, depending on his success to go hand-in-hand with their own) is a treat.
"When you have good guys around you, it's easy to find ways to complement one another. As a veteran, it's up to me to see how I can help this team," Kelley told RidiculousUpside.com. "These are guys who know how to play the game because they're professionals. That makes things easier for me."
After losing his mother at a young age to abuse, Kelley found solace in letting basketball be his guide to a better life. He'll be 31 in late January, and though he is yet to play in an NBA game, Kelley's life and basketball experiences make him a valuable commodity. NBA teams often look for much younger players they can develop, but a player like Kelley would be able to come in and help right away. He views this as an asset.
"It's definitely a sign of maturity. I've been around the game for so long. I've played with some of the greats. I've led all my life. I need to be there for these guys. They need someone to pick them up if they're down, and I'm not just talking about the scoreboard," he explained. "I have to be the one that continues to talk to these guys and make sure they don't get discouraged. Even [Thursday] though, we were down by 23, and I had to let them know we still had a chance. Being that guy is something the team needs from me."'
Boasting very sound and fundamental values, both on and off the court, is something Kelley said the HEAT seemed to appreciate and encourage when he participated in camp.
"Natural leadership. I know how to lead guys and just play ball. Honestly, I'm not playing as well as I would like right now, but the leadership is something that still needs to be there regardless of how I'm playing," he said rather humbly. "We're winning basketball games, and that's something I'm proud of. Sometimes you see guys not care about wins or losses if they're not playing well."
Having returned to Sioux Falls for another year, he's undoubtedly a familiar face in town. That's not something he takes for granted. As RidiculousUpside.com outlined last month, Kelley made an impact during the holidays by taking time to build a relationship with patients at a local treatment center. He believed the example he continues to set could help others keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.
"That's a natural branch off in my life. I know what it's like to be down, having been through tragedy before. I know what it's like to be traumatized and be faced with making decisions where you don't know what's positive or negative. When you see fans and children going through similar things, I want to reflect on what I've been through. It's tough, but life is a great thing," Kelley lamented. "It's a battle. But I like to open their eyes a bit and show them they all have a chance. If I have an opportunity to lift someone up, I will always do that."
As he continues his own grind, there's no doubt that Kelley could cash in and carve out a nice consistent career for himself overseas and not look back, especially as he continues into his thirties. Nevertheless, he knows there's value in providing a veteran presence for an NBA team. That remains his objective.
Discussing his decision to continue hitting the D-League hardwood with passion, he explained, "For me, the ultimate goal is to make it to the NBA. I had an opportunity to go to training camp with the HEAT. I thought I played well. I just wanted to make an impression. I listened to the coaches," Kelley said. "From there, I wanted to see what opportunities I had. I've been talking to my agent about different things here and there, but I really want to make an impression on these scouts."
There's a lot of depth to Kelley both as a player and person, which should bode well in his favor if NBA teams are looking for high character guys to come right in and fill various gaps midseason.