Friday, July 23, 2010

Duke's Kelly gets stronger, keeps shooting touch

DURHAM -- Ryan Kelly’s most pressing need for the summer was to get stronger.
Consider it done.

Kelly, the former Ravenscroft standout, started last season at about 210 pounds and played sparingly as a freshman forward during Duke's run to the 2010 NCAA title. A rigorous workout program and high-volume diet have increased his weight, and he now carries 234 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame.

While banging against Duke teammate Mason Plumlee in a game Tuesday at the North Carolina Pro-Am, Kelly made it obvious that he is a different player.

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "Not being bumped around. Taking contact. Rebounding the ball. I think that's going to translate as the season begins."

The extra weight doesn't appear to have diminished the perimeter shooting ability that helped make Kelly a McDonald's All-American as a senior at Ravenscroft. Guarded mostly by Plumlee, he poured in 28 points (to Plumlee's 26), scoring mostly on mid-range jumpers and a few 3-point shots. Being strong enough to defend and rebound in the low post could give him more opportunities to be on the floor and display those skills.

Based on minutes played last season, only Mason and Miles Plumlee are ahead of Kelly in terms of returning post players because starters Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas both were seniors last season. Kelly, who turned 19 on April 9, seems to be maturing physically at the right time.

"I'm even kind of young for my [grade] anyway," he said. "Certainly hard work is the big part, but my body is going to catch up. I'm not done yet. My body has got a ways to go, but it’s on its way to catching up."

He isn't shy about saying Duke is going to win a lot of games again, although that's hardly a revelation with Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and the Plumlees returning from last season’s championship team. Kelly also is determined to play a bigger role.

"I'm just going to compete," he said, "and I'm going to find a way on the court."

Ken Tysiac