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Thirty-five years later, another Kelly leads Gonzaga Prep

Parker Kelly has followed in his father's basketball footsteps at Gonzaga Prep. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Parker Kelly has followed in his father's basketball footsteps at Gonzaga Prep. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Tell Parker Kelly that he shoots like his dad and he smiles.

The Gonzaga Prep senior is proud that many believe his game is similar to the game of his father, Terry Kelly, also a Bullpup.

Terry Kelly averaged 26.2 points per game his senior year in 1976, leading the Spokane City League in scoring the last year of its existence and being named player of the year. He led G-Prep to third at state.

Just about every day, Parker Kelly glances at his father’s uniform, No. 44, retired and hanging in a glass case in the main hallway outside Nick Scarpelli Gym. There’s also a picture of Terry holding a basketball.

Terry Kelly went on to Washington State University where he started 80 straight games at one stretch and led the Cougars to the 1980 NCAA tournament.

Parker Kelly has done fine for himself at G-Prep. A two-year starter, Kelly was part of a league and regional championship team that went to state heavily favored to challenge for a title only to suffer a hiccup and fall short.

This year, the Bullpups (16-3 overall, 15-2 league) have had to blend some new faces into the mix and overcome not having a true post presence. Still, they’ll finish second behind league champ Ferris when league play concludes tonight.

Parker Kelly didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought he was playing in his father’s shadow. The short answer was no. And, no, he doesn’t feel any burden or pressure to put up numbers similar to what his father did.

“Every day that I see his uniform I’m very proud,” Parker said. “I don’t feel any pressure. If anything it’s an honor to be the son of an incredible player. I’m just trying to make a name for myself. I’m just trying to honor him by all the time he’s put into me.”

Parker was a second-team all-Greater Spokane League pick last year and first-team all-regional tournament selection. This season he’s averaging a team-leading 18.5 points per game, second best in the league. He had a season-high 29 in the Bullpups’ 71-53 win at North Central on Tuesday. He made 7 of 14 3-pointers including 5 of 7 in the first half.

He’s had to expand his game this year. Last season he roamed the perimeter and was the recipient of kickouts from the post. This season he’s had to play with his back to the basket at times because he’s the tallest player at 6-foot-4, 3 inches taller than his father.

“In the perfect world he wouldn’t be a post player for us, but he’s taken it and accepted it as a challenge,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “He’s become more versatile on the offensive end. Those are a hard 18 points he’s averaging a game. Teams are singling him out and hunkering down against him.”

Still, Kelly has the freedom to create from midrange or shoot 3-pointers.

It’s his shooting style that most resembles his father. Parker gets good elevation on his jump shot and has a high release.

“He shoots a true jump shot,” McIntyre said.

An uncle merged video of Parker and Terry shooting.

“Our form is identical,” Parker said.

Dad and son spend extra time together shooting. Parker stops by Whitworth University for shooting practice at least twice a week and sometimes on the weekends. His dad is there retrieving and passing the ball to him. Combined with team practices, Parker conservatively estimates that he takes about 1,000 shots per week.

“It all originates with the work that he’s put into the shot,” said Terry, a tax and business attorney. “That’s an acquired skill. It’s something you don’t acquire over one season. He’s worked at it for years. You see a lot of players today in college that are athletic but you can tell they haven’t worked on their shot. He gets to practice an hour or 90 minutes early. And he’s always asking me to feed him shots in the evenings and on weekends.”

Parker is receiving recruiting interest from the University of Denver, Portland State, Portland, Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State and Whitworth.

“I’m keeping my options open right now,” he said. “I just wanted to enjoy my senior season and not think about it. I want to get the best fit for me.”

McIntyre is impressed with Parker’s dedication not only to basketball but to his fitness.

“One of his best characteristics is his work ethic,” McIntyre said. “He takes care of his body. The time he puts into it allows him to draw every ounce of potential that God has given him. It’s incredible.”

Kelly never eats doughnuts and will not eat the pizza provided at school lunch. His lunch usually consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, some potato chips (“to help me sweat at practice,” he said) and chocolate milk.

“I eat meat, because you have to have protein,” he said. “That’s the log in your fire. (His physical trainer) always tells me that what you eat is what your muscles are made of. I take a lot of multivitamins.”

He also does yoga.

“It’s a lot of stretching,” Kelly said. “You stretch every part of the body and get the blood circulating throughout. It really helps with injury prevention.”

He does a circuit of stretches before each practice and game.

“A lot of people don’t understand the importance of stretching,” Kelly said.

Terry Kelly admitted to having flashbacks while watching Parker. But not in the way one might think.

“I can feel a lot of what he’s feeling out there just based on the way the game is flowing and some of the variables he’s having to deal with,” his father said. “I do flashback to the way it felt. Sometimes it’s a positive feeling and sometimes not so positive. I don’t so much have flashbacks of myself playing but the feelings of competition … and persevering through situations. I can see him dealing with those and I’m proud of the way he’s dealing with them.”

How would Parker fit in during father’s era?

“Parker’s a lot bigger, a lot more athletic and a lot stronger than I was,” Terry said. “Parker’s work ethic is certainly equal to mine. I needed a strong work ethic to overcome size limitations. If Parker, the way he plays today, played when I played, he’d be at the highest level, (NCAA) Division I. He has as good of skills as most of those guys on my team.”

Like father, like son.