Erik Kelly plays for the Peninsula College Pirates this season. (Courtesy Photo | Peninsula College)

Erik Kelly plays for the Peninsula College Pirates this season. (Courtesy Photo | Peninsula College)

Checking in with Erik Kelly

JDHS standout playing strong for Peninsula College

Typically, Erik Kelly would be preparing right now to play in the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic.

This year, however, has the 2017 4A Alaska boys player of the year gearing up for a different basketball tournament: the Clackamas Community College Holiday Showcase. After graduating this spring from Juneau-Douglas High School, Kelly joined the Peninsula College Pirates of Port Angeles, Washington.

Uprooting from your hometown to play at the next level would come as a challenge to most. But with 11 games under his belt, Kelly is making it look pretty easy, averaging 11 points and six rebounds for the 3-8 Pirates.

Kelly spoke with the Empire on the phone Friday from Shelton, Washington, to talk about the season.

Juneau Empire: You played arguably your best game of the season on Sunday in that win over Yakima Valley, scoring 19 points and having 17 rebounds. Did you do anything differently for that game or what do you think led to that big night?

Erik Kelly: I knew going into the game that they were kind of a smaller team (and) I have my height advantage over most of them so I should have a decent game. I wanted to go in and have a pretty good impact on the rebounding and put up a decent amount of points to help us out.

Empire: You’re only part way through the season, but what have you found to be the most surprising or unexpected part about playing JUCO?

Kelly: It’s a lot harder than I expected. It’s not the big D-1 (Division I) school but people are still big and still really competitive. That’s something that I didn’t expect at first, but now that I know it’s there, I enjoy it, and try to do my best in all of it.

Empire: What’s has been the highlight for you as a freshman?

Kelly: Learning all the new plays. Learning basically a whole new team, going in not knowing anyone and just learning all these new types of people, how their game is, if they’re a shooter (or) whatnot.

Empire: What kind of players do you have the most of on your team?

Kelly: One got a concussion, but we have quite a good amount of bigs. We probably only have maybe three people under 6 foot, so that’s a lot different compared to Alaska. Just a lot more bigger players.

Empire: Your first game of the season was in the middle of last month (Nov. 17), you played on the road against North Idaho. Can you set the scene of that game and what it was like to check in to your first college game?

Kelly: North Idaho was pretty well known for being a really good team and that’s how they ended up being. For me it was exciting, kind of nerve-wracking, probably a little more than high school because it’s a bigger stage and you never know who could be watching because you’re down in the Lower 48. (There’s) a lot more people watching and there could be people from different schools. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

Empire: I’m assuming you do all your travel down there with a bus, is it weird not to have to get on a ferry or plane to go to away games?

Kelly: Yeah, it’s a little different. To me, I’d probably prefer taking the ferry just because there’s a lot more space to move around. But it doesn’t take as long to get to these places. Compared to an eight-hour ferry ride, you got a four-hour drive. It’s a little different, but still the same thing. You get some team bonding time in.

Empire: You guys are 3-8 right now, do you think you can turn the season around?

Kelly: I think after these last two games, we’ve played pretty well. … We can only get better. I see us doing pretty well in this upcoming tournament right after Christmas just because of how we’ve been playing lately.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.

More in Sports

Thunder Mountain High School junior Sage Schultz pins Ketchikan senior Alexander Gilley in their 135-pound semifinal match of the 2023 Region V Wrestling Championships on Friday at TMHS. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)
Juneau grapplers have lead in first day of Region V Southeast Tournament Championships

TMHS, Mt. Edgecumbe top boys’ divisions; Ketchikan, MEHS top girls’

Colony High School senior Jasmine Anderson, Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé junior Emma Fellman, Service High School senior Preston Kwon and Thunder Mountain High School senior PJ Foy at the USA Swimming 2023 Speedo Winter Junior Championships in Westmont, Illinois. (Courtesy photo)
Foy chasing FMC Natatorium pool record

Glacier Swim Club stars competing at USA junior championships

The Thunder Mountain High School wrestling team, made up of TMHS and Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé athletes, will host the Region V Wrestling Championships on Friday and Saturday in the TMHS Thunderdome gym. (Photo courtesy of TMHS)
Falcons grapplers have mat mission at Southeast Tournament Championships

Thunder Mountain High School upperclassmen have waited lifetime for title chance.

Three birch trees stand in a field at the University of Alaska Fairbanks during a recent celebration for three scientists killed in a helicopter crash in July. From left, the trees honor Tori Moore, Ronnie Daanen and Justin Germann. (Photo by Alyssa Enriquez)
Alaska Science Forum: Memories of souls in a winter birch forest

On a recent afternoon, middle Alaska slipped into darkness. But a few… Continue reading

Through the author’s spotting scope: A Dall sheep feeds in Denali National Park near the Teklanika River. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Too tough to call

The Teklanika River grows and moves swiftly as it flows north. Eventually… Continue reading

A flying squirrel launches a glide, with patagium spread wide. (Photo by Richard A. Wood)
On the Trails: Gliding in air

An eagle soars overhead, wings spread, making only minute steering adjustments of… Continue reading

Fresh snow covers the surface of Eaglecrest Ski Area on Friday morning. General Manager Dave Scanlan said Thursday the plan is to open the ski area next Saturday. (Webcam photo courtesy of Eaglecrest Ski Area)
Eaglecrest manager says things look cool for upcoming season, despite delayed opening

Strong numbers for season pass sales, number of foreign student employees, business leaders told.

The Yukon River, seen here as a wide white band, is freezing later in fall and breaking up earlier in spring than it was a few decades ago. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Long-term views of a changed Alaska

As an instructor for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, I have stood before… Continue reading

A light dusting of snow covers the ground at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Wednesday morning. The planned opening for the ski area has been delayed a week until Saturday, Dec. 9, according to General Manager Dave Scanlan. (Photo courtesy of Eaglecrest Ski Area)
Eaglecrest delays scheduled opening by one week until next Saturday, Dec. 9

Warm temperatures and rain dissolved much of ski area’s snowpack, but cold and snow in forecast.

Most Read