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Head (and shoulders) above the rest

Gervais center Kylor Kelley is enjoying a breakout season as the Cougars' dominating defensive presence in the post


by: PHIL HAWKINS - At a height of 6-foot-8 and still growing, junior Kylor Kelley gives the Cougars a combination of size and length near the basket to help defend against opposing teams.  Basketball runs in Kylor Kelley’s family. The starting center for Gervais High School comes from a strong lineage of basketball players, from his grandfather on down to parents.

“I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember,” said Kelley. “When I was like 5, I started playing.”

It’s easy to see why. At 6-foot-8 with long, athletic limbs, Kelley’s body looks like it was tailored to play the game.

“I don’t think I’m done growing,” said Kelley. “The doctor said I’d probably be taller than my brother.”

“His brother is at least 6-10 now,” said Kelley’s coach at Gervais, Dan Murray.

His mother, Shandel Jump, stands at 6-foot-5, and his father was close to 6-foot-10 and played professionally in Luxembourg.

Kelley’s height comes with certain advantages, particularly at the defensive end where he is a threat to go for double-digit blocks in every game he plays.

Kelley’s exact stats are difficult to keep track of on a game-to-game basis, but his parents tape each game and calculate his stats after each game. His mom tabulates that Kelley has averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and 10 blocks through the Cougars' first seven games of the season.

“I’m not sitting there counting on the bench, but he’s probably getting 10 to 12 (blocks) every game,” said Murray. “(Opponents) are just getting tired of shooting lay-ins against us and getting blocked.”

Last year, Kelley swung back and forth between JV and varsity, but in his first full year of starting at the varsity level, he has been a breakout player for the Cougars.

Jump — who was named best center in the state of Utah as a high school senior — credits Kelley’s performance this season to the work he does with his stepfather Chris.

“He has coached Kylor in numerous leagues and takes time nearly every day to go to the gym or the park, shooting, posting, drop-stepping, training and developing Kylor,” said Jump.

The results have had a tangible effect on how Gervais plays defense against opposing teams.

“We don’t give up inside shots,” said Murray. “We stick to a 2-3 zone, and as long as he’s in the middle, we don’t give them those shots.”

Gervais has played close in nearly every game this season, as the team has built a 4-3 record through the first month of play. In the team’s three losses, the team has played close and been done in by one bad quarter of play, said Murray.

“In our first game, it was tied at the end of the third quarter, and we ended up losing by 20,” said Murray. “The box score didn’t look good, but we were right in that the whole way.”

Fortunately for Murray, Kelley has been particularly disciplined this year in keeping out of foul trouble, something that is often difficult for shot-blockers of his caliber.

“I don’t think I’ve had to take him out of the game one time because of fouls,” said Murray.

With the league schedule set to begin on Jan. 7 against Colton, Kelley hopes to simply keep improving over the course of the season and working on his defense.

“My priority is just trying to play the best defense I can and make shots,” said Kelley. “I think we’ll do pretty well this year. I think we have a big chance of getting into the playoffs.”



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