Khalil Kelley is a 203cm forward from Rancho Cucamonga, California that is playing his second professional season and first with MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel (Germany-ProB). As a rookie he played with the Uni-Riesen Leipzig (Germany-ProB) playing 28 games: 15.0ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 49.6%, FT: 63.8%. He racked up Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Center of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B 1st Team -15, and Eurobasket.com German 2.Bundesliga Pro B All-Imports Team -15. He started his basketball career in 2010 with Pacific (NCAA) where he played until 2014 playing a total of 117 NCAA games. As a senior he played 29 games averaging6.1ppg, 5.0rpg, FGP: 48.8%, FT: 59.8%. German Hoops spoke to the American after signing with Wolfenbuettel last summer.
Khalil thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on signing with MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel (Germany-ProB). How blessed are you start a new chapter in your professional basketball career?
I’m very blessed and grateful to Wolfenbuettel for the opportunity to play basketball professionally again after missing a season which was tough for me. I hope to make the most of this chance and by working hard this season I will.
How happy are you to be back playing professionally in Germany? What was your fondest memory playing as a rookie with the UNI-Riesen Leipzig?
Its nice to be playing back in Germany after a great first season. I enjoyed my time in Leipzig with the team there and the times with my teammates after games were always great and I thank everyone at Uni Risen for giving me my first opportunity
How difficult was this summer for you having to deal with a new reality with the transfer market. After not playing last season how more difficult was it getting the trust of teams than it was coming out of college?
It was definitely tough, tougher than I expected. A year off will make teams weary of you and unfortunately it made it difficult for me to find the higher offers that I felt like I was starting to receive last summer.
Was there any doubt in the last year that you might have to forever say that “I only played my rookie year as a professional”?
Never any doubt. I always trust my abilities as a player and I knew that I would get another opportunity as long as I worked and stayed in shape.
After a very strong rookie season with the Uni-Riesen Leipzig (Germany-Pro B) where you played 28 games averaging 15.0ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 49.6%, FT: 63.8% and racking up Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Center of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B 1st Team -15, and Eurobasket.com German 2.Bundesliga Pro B All-Imports Team -15, you apparently wanted to try the D-league. Why didn´t this route pan out last season?
Unfortunately after the season I had some miscommunication with one of the D league teams . It’s a mistake I won’t make again and I’m looking to move forward from that and use it as a learning tool for the future.
What experiences with the D-league and the business side did you make and what did you learn from this tough experience that will help you not make the same mistake ever again?
I learned that I have to take a more active role in everything going on . It’s my career and I’ve got to work just as hard on the business side of things making sure I’m aware of what’s going on during the summer.
After a very strong rookie season and not having played last season, you have a lot to prove this season with the MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel (Germany-ProB). Do you feel pressure having to live up to what you achieved as a rookie with the UNI-Riesen Leipzig?
I feel a little pressure but it’s good pressure it’s something I need in order to help fuel my drive this season and play with an aggressiveness on the court.
What were the main reasons signing with the MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel (Germany-ProB)? What do you feel stood out most about coming to this new club?
The main reason I signed with this club is the family style atmosphere here in Wolfenbuettel and the fact that I knew we would be able to do big things this year in Pro B if we play up to our capabilities.
You will be a main offensive force on this team. Despite missing last season is Khalil a better player now then he was with the UNI-Riesen Lleipzig or a player looking to develop further as a player this season?
Every year I work on improving my game, the things I’m good at and the things I need to get better at. I feel like at this point I am farther along mentally and my feel for the game is better than it was in Leipzig.
When looking at your game, your scoring and rebounding is a big strength. Are there any other big time assets in your game that you can add on to that list?
I think my passing is underrated especially out of the post. I look for teammates and when they are open I always try and get it to them.
In your rookie season you didn´t average a steal or block per game. Is defense a continuing work in progress in your game or do you add that different dimension to the defensive end not always seen in the stats?
Along with the rest of my game I’m always looking to improve in all aspects. I don’t get all the steals and blocks but I usually do a pretty good job keeping my opponents in check .
How thankful are you to current teammate German Joern Wessels who recommended you to head coach Ralph Rheberger? Are you buying the first dinner for the big man?
Haha I appreciate my man Jorn looking out for me and we’ll see about the dinner thing when he gets back out here.
How important was Joern Wessels for your rookie season? Did he show you the ropes and help you become more comfortable in a new culture?
Yes most definitely he did along with some of my other teammates and they helped me with the day to day aspects of living in Germany .
What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Germany where you knew that you were very far away from Rancho Cucamonga, California?
The big wake up call for me was when it started snowing. Now I’ve been in snow before but to have it everywhere for weeks at a time was totally different and for a So Cal guy like myself it was an adjustment.
You played at Pacific (NCAA) from 2010-2014. You won the Big West Tournament in 2013. You beat Cal-Irvine in the title game, but what memories do you still have of the exciting semi-final 55-53 win against Cal Poly?
Our entire season that year was great. As a team we worked together and tried to send our coach Bob Thomason out in style and fortunately we did that by making it to the tourney. When Travis Fulton made the final put back and everyone went crazy that is something I will always remember.
You made it to the big dance in 2013, but lost first round to Miami 78-49. Even in a big loss like this from a player´s stand point are you able to learn by watching opponents or are you too wrapped up in the heat of the battle to see what a Shane Larkin is doing?
Yeah at the time we were so focused on trying to prove that we could play at that level and win that I wasn’t able to really watch other guys like that, but I will say they had a good team that year.
How did Pacific(NCAA) head coach Bob Thomason groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He did a great job of getting me ready mentally with his IQ for the game and the way he went about making us prepared for each and every opponent. It helps now when I’m looking at scouting reports for our games looking at teams strengths and weaknesses.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Tony Gill?
I’ll give Tony credit, they don’t call him Big Smooth for nothing.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 NBA legends would you have as the heads?
Kobe, Jordan, Lebron,Shaq
Lebron finally won his first NBA title with the Cavs. Where does this new title place him in the all-time greatest ranking of players?
I think he’s a Top 10 guy on the verge of being in the Top 5. It’s tough because people will never give him his full credit but there’s so many guys up there at the top. I think when it’s all said in done he’ll be top 3
What was the last movie that you saw?
I saw Captain America: Civil War on the plane to Wolfenbuettel.
Thanks Khalil for the chat.