Stevie Kelly is the floor general for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball team.
At the outset of last winter, Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball head coach Bob Rodgers wasn’t sure who was going to emerge as his team’s starting point guard.
It didn’t take long to figure out. Insert Stevie Kelly, a then-junior coming off a Patriot League All-Star season as a center back in soccer.
“Pretty much our first game (we knew he was our point guard),” Rodgers said.
Kelly was no stranger to Rodgers, but like most young players — he had some work to do entering the year.
“I’ve known Stevie since second grade and watched him coming to my camps,” Rodgers said. “I’ve known him his whole life, he’s always been a great athlete, and when he was a freshman and sophomore, I always saw great potential in him, but he had to mature.”
He did and became a Patriot League All-Star on the court in the process, dishing out 136 assists and steering the Panthers to the Div. 2 South semifinals, which included a stunning upset over top-seeded Randolph, a game in which Kelly hit a clutch layup in the final minutes to help seal the victory.
“I didn’t expect to have as big of a junior season as I had,” Kelly said. “I just went in working hard.”
Said Rodgers: “Stevie is tough as nails. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached. He just competes hard all the time.”
This season, Kelly, who is now a senior captain, has elevated his game to another level, despite an extended soccer season that culminated with a spot in the EMass All-Star game in late November.
“After soccer practice, I would come up into the gym and take some of my teammates and if they’re not up here, I’m up here by myself,” Kelly said.
Rodgers noticed the dedication.
“He’s improved immensely,” Rodgers said. “His shooting and passing are both better.”
But where Kelly has shown the most growth from last winter is with his communication on the court.
“Talking is probably the hardest skill to be taught to any basketball player,” Rodgers said. “Stevie was at the point where he could talk about what he was doing and where his game was or his defenders were. Great point guards see it all. We’ve started to see Stevie do that more. The great point guards that we’ve had at Whitman-Hanson are the guys that make everyone around them better.”
Kelly has been doing just that. He posted a triple-double in win over Marshfield on Friday, Jan. 17, scoring 24 points, dishing out 11 assists and corralling 10 rebounds.
“I look to attack first and I try to get by my guy and if someone helps, I’ll just hit Ben Rice or someone in the corner or J.Z. (John Zeidan) down low, but if nobody stops me, I’ll just go to the hoop,” he said.
Kelly also had 11 assists in a win over Pembroke earlier in the season on Jan. 8.
“He’s obviously one of the best in the league at getting to the basket,” said Rice, a fellow senior captain. “He’s quick. He can do a lot of things. He helps me get open because he has really good court vision.”
The Panthers are off to a 10-2 start so far this season, and if they’re going to get where they want, Kelly is going to be key.
“If you look in the gym at the banners of the South Sectional titles, those teams communicated,” Rodgers said. “And if Stevie does that, then it becomes contagious and the rest of the guys do that. Out of all the things we try and work on with the team — communication and sharing the ball are the two things we need to do to reach our potential.”