The Beer City Hoops crew was blessed with the opportunity to talk to Union Red Hawk star alum and MSU graduate team manager Thomas Kelley. We had some questions about the state of basketball in GR, what kids can look forward to as they make the climb from high school to the real world and, as always, the ever-elusive list, “Who is GR’s Top 5?”.
What do you think about the work GRPS is doing in bringing attention to the district and showing off the level of athletic competition recently?
“It’s a great thing for the city of Grand Rapids. With Ottawa Hills having the Floyd Mayweather Classic and now Union having its’ Showcase. Great thing and a great opportunity for the youth to show their talent.”
Kelley went on, talking about his time as a Red Hawk, “My time at Union was great. Always looked forward to going to Union since I was young. My parents went there. Uncles, aunts, pretty much everyone in my family attended Union. So the Red Hawk blood runs deep for me. As soon I as I stepped foot in there, I wanted to do my best to bring the basketball culture back like that had in 80’s. A lot of my childhood friends attended Union as well, so I felt very comfortable. The staff was great also. From Ron Maybin as the athletic director, Mr. Walker and Ms. Chambers being an influence to all of us. Made the transition easier.”
The varsity boys basketball team is off to a great start and getting a lot of attention from the media. What do you tell the kids as the season moves towards the playoffs?
“(The) biggest challenge about the high school playoffs is simple. ONE AND DONE! It’s different than the professional ranks. Played in Europe for 15 years. So (over) there, we used a series for a playoff format. So you can make adjustments. But high school, it’s just like the NCAA tournament. It’s the best team on that given night, which can be tough if a team gets hot. Have to be able to make in game adjustments right then and there. No time for another game. If you can’t, you’re done!”
Kelley went on, “My advice to kids. Take advantage of your window. Don’t rush things. Soak up all the knowledge you can. Take advantage of the sources around you academically and athletically. Hey, because most high school kids think they know it all. Been through it and we do not.”
Geno was a bit reluctant, but went with family, friends, legends and teammates, yourself included. Care to name your local top five players?
“Top 5 is so hard. A lot of people can make a case. Going back for me, my uncle Donte Kelley, who is a Redhawks himself. He was a heck of player. Also my cousin, Jamie Cole, who went to Creston, had a great high school career. But for me in my time… Tough. My 5 would myself with Geno Carlisle, Thomas Kilgore, Ennis Young and Justin Jennings. All 5 from high school right into college went Division 1.”
Any last thoughts?
“Want to give a shout to Brandeon Guyton, the high school coach at Union, trying his best to turn things around, and the Athletic Director Justin Walker. They are doing a good job. Shout out to GRPS as well.”
And with that, Kelley said his goodbyes and headed off for a contest at Northwestern with MSU hoops.
Livin’ the dream on Tom Izzo’s bench. Carry on, Red Hawk!