ESPNU's Kelley gets his kicks


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Posted by madcityradio.com on December 10, 2008 at 14:44:23:

Mike Lucas: ESPNU's Kelley gets his kicks 'talkin' basketball'


/The Capital Times/


While catching his breath between a rare day-night broadcasting doubleheader, ESPNU college basketball analyst Mike Kelley embodied the enthusiasm of Mr. Cub -- Ernie Banks -- who forever preached that every day was a beautiful day to play two.


Last Saturday, Kelley was behind the mic for the Georgia-Illinois game at the United Center in Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Marquette game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.


It was a simple commute between venues for the 30-year-old Kelley, the former Golden Eagles ballboy and Badgers point guard, who grew up in Menomonee Falls and prepped at Milwaukee Pius.


"Having Marquette-Wisconsin as my second game helps because I know the teams so well," Kelley said. "If this was Iowa-Northern Iowa, there would have been a little more prep work. But this is fun. Hey, it's talkin' basketball."


Kelly, who's entering his eighth season as a television analyst, was scheduled to be courtside Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City for the ESPNU telecast of Northern Iowa vs. Iowa.


Because of his obvious Big Ten connection as a four-year starter at Wisconsin -- Kelley's 116 starts are the second most in school history -- why isn't Kelley working for the Big Ten Network?


"I had been working with ESPN Regional right up until it (the BTN) started, and at that point it was sort of every man for himself," Kelley explained. "With all the different talent, the Big Ten Network had a lot of different guys that they put into the mix.


"At the end of the day, ESPN offered me a much better package. I could only get a few games with the Big Ten Network. I wanted to work for them, but I've also got four little kids that I have to worry about, too. So it just came down to a financial decision."


Kelley was quick to add that he likes working with ESPN because everybody has been supportive and good to him during his formative years as a broadcaster. "I'm certainly not one of the top guys and probably never will be one," he said. "But it's still fun to watch a game and talk about it."


This season, Kelley has been assigned to 28 games, not including postseason tournaments. On most Saturdays, he will be doing a Big East game. On Wednesdays, he will be doing either an ACC or Big 12 game for ESPNU.


When asked to compare and contrast the different leagues, he said, "I would never say any style is better or worse. For instance, the SEC is more athletic but maybe less focused on the fundamentals than the Big Ten."


Kelley has seen the similarities in style between the Big Ten and the Big 12. "They are a little bit more into halfcourt sets," he said. "But you've also got some teams that like to run up and down the floor as you do in the Big Ten."


Kelley conceded the Big East really has no match for its sheer volume of quality teams. "It's almost the perfect storm as far as what's going on," he said. "They have so many skill players in the Big East and they have teams that run zones and teams that press."

They have the total package, in other words. But then there's the tradition-rich ACC and No. 1-ranked North Carolina, which doesn't appear to have any holes or weaknesses, in Kelley's words.


The Tar Heels are blessed with special talent, ranging from the inside presence of Tyler Hansbrough to the explosiveness of point guard Ty Lawson. "Remember the Plinko game on the 'Price is Right?'" Kelley posed.


Indeed. The Plinko board had offset rows of pegs so that when a flat chip was dropped from the top it was virtually impossible to determine its path. Not unlike Lawson, according to Kelley.


"He's going to get to the hoop," he said, "and you're not sure what path he's going to take, but he's going to get there. In transition, he can make some really good guards look not so good."


Kelley, a member of the UW's 2000 Final Four team, had great instincts and quick hands, if not quick feet, and he could show up opposing guards, too. He was smart, savvy and an opportunist, reflected by his 275 career steals, still a Wisconsin record.


Could a Mike Kelley still be a factor in today's college game?


"Oh, absolutely," he said without hesitation. "You see that player out there all the time. You see him in (Wisconsin senior) Joe Krabbenhoft and what he brings to the game and his toughness.


"There are guys all over the country where you might not go 'wow' when you see them but they can still definitely compete."


Broadcasting is still a part-time job for Kelley, who's the vice president of his dad's company, Associated Engineering in Hustisford. Family always comes first. And the travel is tough enough with four small children at home.


"Our oldest (Michael) is 5 years old," Kelley said, "and he's going to start playing some peewee hoops pretty soon." Fair warning to the neighborhood tots. Another Mike Kelley is on the way.


Protect the ball.



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