Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shae Kelley doing it all for ODU

Through eight games, Shae Kelley leads Old Dominion in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, minutes played, yards after the catch, goals-against average....

OK, we made a couple of those up. But only a couple.

Remember when this was going to be a season in which Kelley wouldn't be asked to do so much? It's turned out that, so far, the demands on Kelley have never been greater.

Consider that, in addition to leading ODU in the above categories, Kelley also has just one fewer assist than starting point guard G.G. Goodhope and is just five one-hundredths of a percentage point shy off Becca Allison's team lead in field goal percentage. She has more rebounds than any two other Lady Monarchs combined. And her 14 blocked shots are five more than the rest of the entire team combined.

But while this is hardly ideal statistical distribution, for pure entertainment value we have to admit we absolutely love watching Kelley go crazy at both ends like this. She's like the Energizer Bunny with a ponytail (sometimes), a high-motor two-way player with an uncanny knack for being on or around the ball seemingly at all times.

She'll routinely have these 90-second to two-minute chunks in which she's make a shot, steal a pass, dish out an assist, block a shot, score again, grab and rebound and dribble up court... It's like, are there two Shae Kelleys out there?

On Wednesday, for example, the Lady Monarchs eventually blew out UMass-Lowell by 33 points. But ODU didn't separate until early in the second half. And there were stretches during which Kelley was so impactful that we couldn't wondering, if you put Shae on UMass-Lowell and kept everything else the same, would the Lady Monarchs even be winning?

That said, the long-term outlook for Old Dominion is as bright as it was in the preseason. It's just that the added size that should bring the Lady Monarchs so many new dimensions is pretty much still in the over. Freshmen Odegua Oigbokie has shown flashes of excellence in limited minutes, and fellow rookie bigs Ija Ajemba and Destinee Young have barely played at all.

There's nothing alarming about this. Freshmen usually take time to get acclimated to Division I ball, particularly forwards and centers. But with the newcomers seeing minimal time, the Lady Monarchs are essentially fielding last year's team plus transfer Chelisa Painter (and now Michelle Brandao) but minus Jackie Cook, Mairi Buchan and Ashley Betz-White (injured).

No wonder's Kelley's so busy.

The team shouldn't be this shorthanded all season, though. At some point, at least two of the freshmen figure to develop into more regular contributors. Betz-White's return will definitely help, and Painter and Tiffany Minor, who are assuming starter's minutes for the first time in their careers, figure to become more comfortable with the added responsibilities.

If even some of these things happen, the Lady Monarchs should be able to give as good as they get when Conference USA play begins next month. If they all happen, look out.

In the meantime, we're sure Kelley will keep doing what's she's been doing - which is just about everything.

The Lady Monarchs will host Maryland-Eastern Shore Saturday at 7 p.m.

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