The riveting value of Micaela Kelly
Sue Guevara sat back in her chair, thought for a moment and began explaining the value of redshirt sophomore guard Micaela Kelly.
In order to unfold on Kelly's merit, Guevara first spoke about senior guard Presley Hudson – "My colleagues will tell you, 'If you want to stop Central Michigan, you stop Presley Hudson.'"
Hudson, along with senior forward Reyna Frost, lives in the spotlight for the Chippewas. She averages 20.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists per game and is 37 points away from breaking the all-time program scoring record.
Guevara, in her 12th-year as the coach for Central Michigan women's basketball, shrugged while describing what Hudson's stardom truly means for Kelly, who owns the nickname Twin.
“I say to Twin, ‘That’s a big compliment because now you’re going to show what you can do,'" Guevara said, regarding the thoughts of her colleagues. "It’s not just Pres. Our team understands that."
While the opportunity for Kelly to shine as opponents honed in on Hudson was always a realistic option, it was up to the former transfer from DePaul to deliver on the court.
She's done just that.
Toward the end of the Mid-American Conference season in 2017-18, Kelly was one of CMU's best 3-point shooters. Once the MAC Tournament was underway, she turned her efforts up a notch.
Kelly poured in 26 points, six rebounds and four assists in a 96-91 victory against Buffalo in the MAC Tournament championship on March 10 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. She shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range and was named to the All-Tournament Team after the contest.
"When it was showtime, she showed," Guevara said. "I’m watching that like, ‘Damn, Twin. Okay.’ If they’re going to leave her open, she’s going to shoot the rock. And she’s doing it really well.”
The 5-foot-6 guard averaged 11.5 points per game and 3.5 assists last season. In 2018-19, Kelly has registered double-digit scoring in 13-of-16 games, played a season-high 39 minutes in a 90-80 upset over Miami (FL) on Dec. 30 and currently shoots 44.6 percent from downtown.
In the season opener, a 104-61 drubbing of Oakland University, Kelly went off for 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. More importantly, the rising star was 7-of-10 from the field and made all four 3-point attempts.
"People will be right in her face, but she still gets the shot off. I’m like, ‘How did you get that off?’ Hudson wonders. "The sky is the limit for her because she keeps improving. If she keeps getting better, you never know."
Growing with Hudson
The Student Activity Center at CMU opened in 1990 and has hosted thousands of students over nearly three decades. Two of those students are Hudson and Kelly, as the pair began going to the SAC together when Kelly arrived in 2016 as a transfer from DePaul.
Time spent at the SAC was for street ball, meaning a significantly less formal structure and minimal enforcement of the rules. There were no referees, putting the "call your own foul" rule in effect but, as many understand, calling fouls is disfavored.
Kelly and Hudson began gaining chemistry at the courts in the SAC, located adjacent to McGuirk Arena.
In 2-on-2 games up to 21 points, the pair took on students at CMU. Nearly every time, Kelly and Hudson, considered the best backcourt in the MAC, won with ease.
“We play good together in two-on-two," Kelly said. "She can read me, and I can read her. We play streetball. It doesn’t have to be stationary basketball with her anymore. I just give her the look, and she will toss me a backdoor pass.”
When they weren't at the SAC, Kelly was playing against Hudson while sitting out due to NCAA Division I transfer rules. Guevara said practice in 2016-17 was like two heavyweights in a boxing ring, and it remains the same today.
“Pres won’t say a whole lot, but she will look," Guevara said. "You can see it in their eyes. It’s a lot of fun to watch. I love it. They both can score in so many different ways and get their teammates involved."
Chip on Her Shoulder
Even though Kelly sees an upside to being the underrated member of CMU's backcourt, she plays with a chip on her shoulder because of it.
Kelly wants to do more and believes she can take any defender who goes up against her. She has confidence and hopes to unleash her ample amount of weaponry in the near future.
"They don’t know what I’m going to do yet," Kelly said of her opponents. "They don’t trust my game, but I’m at a point where I’m more confident. It’s up to them to respect me or not. I’m going to go get it regardless."
Kelly, a Detroit native, averages 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest. She also shoots 47.9 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from 3-point range and 81.6 percent at the free throw line.
Guevara said Kelly's offensive game is important, but she's truly known as a lockdown defender for the Chippewas.
“We know we are going to get points from her steals," Guevara said. "She’s so fast. She can jump to get rebounds and keeps me calm. Twin keeps me calm.
"I love that kid. Just works her ass off."
For some odd reason, opposing teams don't often focus intently on Kelly. That probably won't last long.
"They are going to respect my shot one day," Kelly said.