Ryan Kelly arrived to his homecoming at Ravenscroft High with accessories that he toted for most of the season: a walking boot and crutches.
Kelly couldnt participate in the ACC barnstorming game at his alma mater, but he was at ease. Two weeks removed from surgery on his right foot, Kelly is finally on the road to a full recovery from the injury that cost him two months of the regular season.
I should have no more problems in the future, he said. It should be 100 percent.
With the season over, Kelly revealed this week that he never was at full strength after his return from a broken foot (Duke declined to specify the injury during the year). His career-high 36 points against Miami and postseason play all came on a foot that was still healing, but it was either that or have surgery in January that would have ended his career, a decision Kelly was unwilling to make.
I didnt want to leave my teammates or career out to dry, he said. I certainly dont regret that and am very proud of my decision.
So Kelly was all smiles at Ravenscroft Tuesday night, signing autographs for fans before and after the exhibition game and posing for pictures. He, along with Seth Curry, made up the injured reserve for the ACC all-stars, who competed against a team full of Ravenscroft alumni.
Dukes Mason Plumlee, N.C. States Scott Wood and Jay Lewis, UNCs Dexter Strickland and Wake Forests C.J. Harris made up the starting five for the all-stars, who won 128-86 in a game full of 3-point attempts and ridiculous dunks. Dukes Quinn Cook and Alex Murphy and the Wolfpacks T.J. Warren, along with Duke alum Nolan Smith and former Tar Heels stars Reggie Bullock and Phil Ford, were also on the bench.
Ryan wasnt the only Kelly that enjoyed his homecomingSean Kelly, a Duke manager, beat Wood in a halftime 3-point shooting contest. Kelly called his younger brother the king of irrational confidence, laughing at his performance.
The event is designed for fans to see their favorite players up close. The participants also get to take advantage of their newfound freedom from the NCAAs amateurism rules that prevented them from making money. Wood, for example, was selling autographed shoes that ranged from $75-125. Plumlee said he had sold all of his practice shorts, too.
Its all part of the lighthearted atmosphere. The players were all familiar with each others games from scouting work during the season, and there were no signs of any rivalries out on the court.
North Carolina and Duke, they always look at us like Bloods and Crips, Strickland said, but were actually friends.
Once the barnstorming tour wraps up, many of the players will disperse around the country for their NBA Draft preparation. Kelly, though, will be staying local, rehabbing at Duke and spending time at his Raleigh home. His recovery will prevent him from working out, but hes counting on his performance to speak for itself.
Ive got four years of playing basketball at Duke, he said. Theyve certainly had a lot of opportunities to see me play and have quite a lot of film.
Highlights from his career performance against Miami will undoubtedly be among those most attractive to potential teams. Tuesday, Kelly had the jersey he wore during that game on hand as he raffled it off for charity. It was one last gift for the fans that came to see him return home.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley