David­son’s Kellan Grady tunes out NBA ‘noise’

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DAVID SCOTT dscott@char­lot­teob­server.com

Kellan Grady heard the noise last spring and wanted noth­ing to do with it. Fresh off a sea­son dur­ing which he av­er­aged 18.0 points for the David­son Wild­cats and was named the At­lantic 10’s rookie of the year, Grady be­came a fig­ure in what has be- come a cot­tage in­dus­try of pre­dict­ing fu­ture NBA drafts.

Google the words “Kellan Grady 2019 NBA mock draft” and there he is, his name pop­ping up all over the place.

Grady knew about it and ig­nored it.

“Ini­tially it was tricky,” said Grady. “A lot of my friends would send me on­line stuff that said I had the po­ten­tial to be a draft choice next year. But if you think about this stuff, it’s not go­ing to do you any good. I’m just go­ing to fo­cus on be­ing the best player I can be. Then my ul­ti­mate dream will come true.”

For Grady to make that jump so quickly, of course, would mean for him to leave school early. An ath­letic 6-foot-5 combo guard, Grady en­ters his sopho­more sea­son with no de­signs on do­ing that.

“(He has) ma­tu­rity,” said Bob McKil­lop, who’s en­ter­ing his 30th year as David­son’s coach.

“Kellan stays fo­cused on help­ing his team­mates and he stays fo­cused on get­ting bet­ter every day.

“His head could have been filled with the noise and all this chat­ter from so­cial me­dia about be­ing a draft pick here or a draft pick there. He’s put the blin­ders on about that and he’s done a great job of that.”

What Grady said he’s more con­cerned about now is help­ing theWild­cats re­turn to the NCAA tour­na­ment, which they did for a 14th time in pro­gram his­tory last sea­son af­ter win­ning the At­lantic 10 tour­na­ment. David­son opens its sea­son Tues­day against Cleveland State at Belk Arena.

Grady played a com­ple­men­tary role last sea­son along­side for­ward Pey­ton Aldridge, the A-10’s co-player of the year who is play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in Europe. Now, with am­ple sup­port from play­ers like ju­nior guard Jon Axel Gud­munds­son and an­other po­ten­tial fresh­man find in for­ward Luka Bra­jkovic, Grady will be David­son’s go-to guy.

McKil­lop’s sys­tem has long fos­tered a team-first ap­proach, with sev­eral play­ers ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing the scor­ing load on any given night. But the Wild­cats also reg­u­larly have one player who stands out above the rest. Since the Stephen Curry era, there’s been De’Mon Brooks, Jake Co­hen, Tyler Kali­noski, Jack Gibbs and Aldridge.

Now Grady ap­pears ready to fill that role.

“I think it’s a priv­i­lege,” Grady said. “I feel for­tu­nate to be in this po­si­tion. I’m em­brac­ing tak­ing that pri­mary role this sea­son. Be­ing able to be the face of the pro­gram is a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Once Grady got the NBA draft noise out of his head, he went to work pre­par­ing for this sea­son. Although he’s listed as 10 pounds lighter (185) than his play­ing weight as a fresh­man, Grady said he’s gained weight. He worked with a trainer dur­ing the spring and sum­mer to help di­ver­sify his of­fense, one that was al­ready ef­fi­cient, as ev­i­denced by his 50.1 shoot­ing per­cent­age (37.2 from 3-point range) from last sea­son.

“I’m try­ing to ex­pand my scor­ing abil­ity over­all,” Grady said. “I’m work­ing on the con­sis­tency of my shot over­all. I want to be more of a multi-di­men­sional scorer.”

McKil­lop also wants Grady to more in­volved in play­ing point guard, a role he’ll share with Gund­munds­son and KiShawn Pritch­ett. But much will also be asked of Grady off the court. Although he’s not one of the team’s cap­tains (those are se­nior for­ward Nathan Ekwu and ju- niors Gud­munds­son and Pritch­ett), Grady will be one of the team’s lead­ers.

“Ev­ery­thing Kellan does, shoot, pass or drib­ble, play great de­fense — but he’s a great leader,” said red­shirt fresh­man guard Luke Framp­ton. “He leads in how he plays. He’s dif­fer­ent in that way. He’s one of the great role mod­els on the team.”

There’s plenty of ev­i­dence Grady is sa­vor­ing his time at David­son and that he’s still en­joy­ing his time as a col­lege kid. While talk­ing about the Wild­cats’ non-con­fer­ence sched­ule, he men­tioned look­ing for­ward to play­ing in ACC are­nas at Wake For­est and North Carolina. But he also said he’s ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing home games against Dart­mouth and North­east­ern, be­cause both teams have play­ers he knows from his high school days in Mas­sachusetts. McKil­lop per­haps said it best. “When you leave Belk Arena, you go up­stairs and I in­vari­ably see this hap­pen,” McKil­lop said. “There are glass doors that peo­ple push through be­cause they see the out­side through the glass. They don’t no­tice the lit­tle sign on them that says ‘emer­gency exit.’ Isn’t it in­ter­est­ing, be­cause if it was a solid door, you’d see that sign.

“With a glass door, you look out and see the fu­ture. You don’t see what’s in front of you. Kellan is look­ing to see what’s in front of him, rather than what’s through the glass door. That’s pretty ma­ture for him to do that.”

TIM COWIE - DAVIDSONPHOTOS.COM TIM COWIE

David­son sopho­more Kellan Grady, right, pic­tured Thurs­day night against Wash­ing­ton & Lee in an ex­hi­bi­tion at Belk Arena, was the At­lantic 10 Fresh­man of the Year last sea­son. Grady is fo­cused on David­son re­turn­ing to the NCAA tour­na­ment and not his NBA fu­ture.

TIM COWIE - DAVIDSONPHOTOS.COM TIM COWIE

Kellan Grady of David­son lis­tens to head coach Bob McKil­lop dur­ing a time­out against Wash­ing­ton & Lee at Belk Arena on Thurs­day. Grady fin­ished with 20 points as David­son won 116-56.

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