Kylor Kelley knows the biggest immediate impact he can have at Oregon State is on defense, and the 7-footer doesn’t shy away from that.
The offensive end is a work in progress, as he develops post moves and extends his shot beyond mid-range jumpers.
But as one of the tallest players on the floor, his long wing span has helped make shot-blocking a constant for him.
Defense is a focus under head coach Wayne Tinkle and Kelley is OK with that.
“When I got here the first thing we did in the workout is defense, getting down in the stance,” the Gervais High graduate said. “I think it’s going to be help me be a better defender and shot blocker.
“As a shot-blocker I’ve always tried to block every shot, but in this type of game in Division I you can’t go after every single one. Otherwise you’re going to leave your man open.”
Kelley, a junior forward, signed with Beaver men’s basketball last November and has been on the OSU campus for the past several weeks with the program’s other newcomers.
Kelley said Oregon State showed interest since the end of his senior year of high school.
He initially planned to attend a junior college but instead ended up at Northwest Christian, an NAIA Division II school in Eugene. He spent two years there, one as a redshirt, before competing at Eugene’s Lane Community College last season.
An economics major, Kelley said he chose OSU because of the coaches and that it allowed him to stay close to home. Gervais is about 15 miles northeast of Salem. His brother Konnor graduated from Oregon State this year.
Earlier this year, Tinkle described Kelley as long, skilled and athletic, a player who can handle the ball and score from inside and out.
“Needs size and strength but has a great feel for the game,” the coach said. “I think he can be a dominating rebounder as well as he gains strength.”
Kelley has been working to add weight to his frame throughout his collegiate career.
The added pounds will help him hold his own under the basket. He hopes to put on 10 to 15 before the start of the upcoming regular season.
“The past few colleges there’s been a weight room, but now the resources that Oregon State can give me,” Kelley said. “This offseason this summer, I’ve been trying to push myself, getting bigger, eating a lot more. They feed us until we’re full. Even past where we’re full.”
Reaching his goal will mean continuing to wake up early to get to the gym and eating balanced meals after workouts, he added.
On the court, Kelley says he’s now back to 100 percent after a stress fracture in his left foot kept him hobbled much of this past season at Lane.
He averaged 9.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 28 minutes per game for the Titans. He played in 16 straight contests after missing eight of the team’s first 11 with the injury.
Kelley led the 32-team Northwest Athletic Conference at 4.6 blocks per game and was selected to the NWAC all-defensive team. He also averaged 1.8 assists while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 68.8 percent at the free-throw line.
He developed his 3-point shot under former Oregon standout Luke Jackson while at Northwest Christian. But the stress fracture stunted that progress at Lane because Kelley couldn’t jump off the floor.
He says he’s glad to have the injury behind him and that he’s been at full strength for about a month.
In describing his game, Kelley says he’s more athletic than some bigs and can get off the ground quicker. But he adds that he’ll need to add quickness to compete with the competition he’ll face going forward.
“I also have the mid-range game, extending to the 3. But I still need to work on that, for sure,” he said. “More of a stretch big that you see in the NBA today and in college today. Bigs are starting to shoot a lot more jumpers, handling the ball.”
With the departure of Drew Eubanks for the NBA, Oregon State is left with just one veteran post player on the current roster in senior Gligorije Rakocevic.
Kelley sees that as an opportunity to prove himself and earn playing time.
“It’s very motivating for sure,” Kelley said, noting that he sees competition at the power forward position between himself, true freshman Warren Washington and redshirt freshman Isaac Barnes.
“It’s going to be a battle in practice,” he said. “We have to show that we want it and show that we want to play before we can even think about playing.”
Seeing the floor at the Division I level will be a dream come true, Kelley said.
His mom, Shandel Howell, played at Utah State. He remembers when he was 4 or 5 years old and saw his dad Jeff’s basketball trophies and watched film of his time playing at Boise State. From that point he wanted to be a Division I player.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished something big,” Kelley said. “It’s been a long three years but I finally made it.”