UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Former point guard Mike Kelley marvels at Gasser, Taylor

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Mike Kelley's school record 275 career steals - 92 more than the runner-up on the list (Tracy Webster) - is a testament to his anticipation, among other things, as college basketball player.

With this in mind, Kelley anticipated the question before it was asked.

"If you're calling to find out if I ever had a triple-double, I can confirm that I didn't," said Kelley, laughing. "The only thing I sniffed in double-digits was minutes (played)."

Kelley_FinalFour.jpgTrue enough. He wasn't much of a scorer. But he was a difference-maker for the Badgers, whether he was locking up an opponent, distributing the ball or stealing it (he had 10 against Texas).

In addition to finishing his career with 344 assists (fourth highest in school history), he was a key component in the UW's run to the Final Four. In five games, he had 21 assists and four turnovers.

Kelley continues to milk his passion for hoops by serving as an ESPN analyst on Big East games. Recently, he was asked to bring some context to Josh Gasser's triple-double, the first ever at the UW.

"I would suggest a conference as established as the Big Ten - with scouting reports being as good as they are and the familiarity with each other - doesn't make it any easier," he said. "You're not likely to get into a game where people are just trading punches and playing fast and loose. It's more of a cerebral game. But it's not easy to pull off at any level in any conference."

Kelley's television schedule has worked out to the extent that he has been able to watch a lot of Badger games. "What impresses me the most about Josh Gasser is that he stands in there and he takes the good with the bad," said Kelley who grew up in Menominee Falls and prepped at Milwaukee Pius.

"He's willing to throw punches - figuratively - and he's got mettle and the moxie you need to be a contributor as a freshman. You just can't step in and do it on talent alone. You have to have the heart and the mental wherewithal to do it, and that's what he has got. That's what I love about the kid."

Kelley recalled the challenge of competing in the Big Ten as a true freshman. "The team that I was on wasn't all that good, either, so we took some poundings," he said. "You went out there and performed the best you could, but there's no doubt it takes its toll. Having some success helps."

A first-year player has a tendency to "defer" to his older teammates, Kelley acknowledged.

"In general, I played that way," he said. "Some guys aren't wired that way. But as a freshman I think typically you're going to recognize that there's a pack mentality and you have your leaders who were in place before you got there and you're just trying to co-exist peacefully.

Gasser_action.jpg"It comes down to, 'What do you want? What are you looking for?' If the team needs you to score then deferring isn't a good thing. If they need you to take care of the ball, then you give them that. When you have an All-American (Jon Leuer) and one of the best point guards (Jordan Taylor) in the country, how do you not feel like you should defer? That just seems natural to me."

As a former point guard, he has great admiration for Taylor's development in that role.

"I've seen Jordan mature this year into a player who's not deferring in situations," Kelley said. "It's not easy to go from a player who looked more to create to a player who can find his own shot. But off the pick-and-roll, he's a threat to knock down that shot or drive.

"His strength is incredible and it's absolutely a huge factor in being a successful guard in the Big Ten. It's an underestimated part of playing that role - how strong you need to be, not just in a given game, but over the course of the season. If you're going to be skinny in this conference, you're going to have to be really talented and really quick like a Devin Harris.

"Jordan Taylor's confidence in looking for his shot is outstanding. He just 'gets it.' Even last year, you could see that he was a coach on the floor and Bo (Ryan) had trust in him to make the appropriate pass at the appropriate time and deliver all the things you need out of a leader and a point guard."

Kelley has also marveled at the steady growth of Leuer.

"He's able to take tough shots and knock them down," he said. "And it's important that you have a guy who's willing to take a tough shot because you're not always going to get an open look on every possession. That's what he gives them - someone who can score on a turn-around with a hand in his face at the end of a shot clock."

What are Kelley's overall impressions of the Badgers? "I really like them," he said. "It's the same old story with Bo; he's remarkable in getting the pieces to fit together. They're a dangerous team."

How dangerous? "I think they can beat anybody," said Kelley, fixing his eyes on March. "This is the type of year where you look forward to the NCAA tournament because there's no elite team or class of teams where you go, 'How are we going to be one of them?'"

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