South Carolina Basketball: Former Gamecock Tre Kelley still striving for success

Mar 1, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; The South Carolina Gamecocks mascot performs during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; The South Carolina Gamecocks mascot performs during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The South Carolina basketball program has seen some great players come through, and former point guard Tre Kelley hasn’t stopped working since leaving Columbia.

Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks are having their best season in quite a while and are in line for their first NCAA Tournament invite in over a decade. While thinking about that the other day, I also began to reminisce about the last time USC had any semblance of sustained success, a three year stretch from 2003-2005 that resulted in an NCAA tourney berth and back to back NIT titles.

One of my favorite Gamecocks, Tre Kelley, was a point guard on those teams, as a freshman back-up in ’03 and as the starting point guard for the next three years.

Kelley, from Washington, D.C., left South Carolina as one of its more accomplished players in recent history. He finished his career in the Top 5 all time in multiple statistical categories including; 2nd all-time in games played, 3rd in assists, 3rd in three pointers made and attempted, and 3rd in minutes played.  He is also in the 1000 point club that Mike Carerra and Sindarius Thrownell recently joined (Duane Notice is just 56 points away from 1000), ending his career with 1488 points, good for 9th in school history.

A favorite of mine during the team success in his first three years, Kelley really endeared himself to me during his senior year, when he basically carried a bad team all season. He played the last half of that year on a bad knee, yet he still averaged 19 points and 5 assists a game.

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Showcasing both his skills and his toughness on a nightly basis, Kelley was the bright spot in an otherwise tough year for USC. Kelley shined that season with his fearless drives to the basket, utilizing his quick spin move to get away from defenders and his slick passing to set up teammates. He finished that year being awarded the Gamecock basketball MVP, and was also selected to both the Coaches and AP ALL-SEC First Team.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Tre Kelley and ask him a few questions about his time at Carolina and how his hoops career has gone since.

GaC: What was your most memorable game while at South Carolina?

Tre Kelley:  “My most memorable game at USC is the NIT championship game that made it back to back titles for us. I thought it was a big accomplishment and I was aware that it could be my last game playing with Kinsey and possibly Balkman as us guys were so close and enjoyed our time at the university.”

GaC: Did being able to win a Trophy (2 actually) in the NIT outweigh the disappointment of only making the one short trip to the NCAA tourney?

TK: “Of course it outweighed the fact that we made the NCAA’s only one season, but being able to win two championships made it feel a lot better.”

GaC: Who is the toughest match-up or best player you faced while in College?

TK: “I would say the toughest player that I faced was Sundiatta Gaines. For whatever reason, he just made it tougher than any other guard in the conference to me. Guys who were considered better than him, I had really big games against.”

GaC: You traveled around Europe a lot following you Gamecock career, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in an arena overseas?

TK: “The craziest thing I’ve seen in an arena while playing overseas in Europe and some other countries overseas, is that when you win a big game sometimes, the opposing fans will throw drinks and other items at our teams while walking off and the police/security had to wall us off and act as a blockade to protect us.”

GaC: Since there have been multiple coaching changes since you left, do you still keep up with the Gamecocks, and do you have any contact/relationship with current players or staff?

TK: “The multiple coaching changes at USC has in a way caused me to lose a tad bit interest in actually keeping up with the success of the team but since Frank became head coach, I have followed them. Frank is a good friend as I knew him as he was coaching K state.”

GaC: How does your current success in the NBADL compare with your overseas success, does it mean more being able to play in your home country again?

TK: “I never compared the two. Success in this game is success to me and I have always enjoyed being able to excel and implement all that I have worked hard and strived for. Of course the different levels as in overseas compared to the NBA D League or the NBA is different but for me, I just want to play at the highest level possible and succeed wherever I am placed. It always means a little more for me to play inside the country so that my family has access to the games and could even travel to some.”

Since Leaving South Carolina, Tre has played in multiple leagues across Europe, Venezuela, China, and had a few stints in the NBADL. He is coming off playing in the NBADL All-Star Game this past week representing the Sioux City Skyforce. He is averaging 15 points and 5.5 assists through 30 games this season, and the Skyforce are currently in 1st place in the Eastern Conference at 23-7.