DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hoops maturity helps Xavier's Alana Kelley

A year older, a year stronger and a year better.
That’s the way that Xavier Prep’s Alana Kelley is looking at her upcoming tryout with the USA U17 National Basketball Team.
Kelley, who just completed her sophomore year, will be one of more than 100 players who will make the trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tryouts are scheduled May 26-30, and the final 12-player team will move on to represent the U.S. in the FIBA World Championships from June 22-July 2 in Spain.
All 12 members of last year’s USA U16 team, for which Kelley also tried out and reached the final 92, will be back this time around. The 6-foot Kelley will have her work cut out for her, but she feels the experience gained from last year and overall improvement during Xavier’s season should help her.

XCP's Alana Kelley

Players trying out will be tested on their individual skills, in 3-on-3 tournament play and traditional scrimmage situations.
“I think I will be better prepared,’’ Kelley said. “This year, I am excited. Last year, I was kind of nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect.’’
She has played the post and forward spots during her climb up the ladder, but she also is gravitating toward the guard spot.
“I have played some at guard,’’ she said. “It’s kind of a big jump, going from down low, but I have been working hard on my jump shots and my defense.’’
As she gets closer to playing in college, Kelley thinks she will see more time at guard.
“I think I’ll play there and still play some inside,’’ she said. “The more versatile you are, the better your chances of playing.’’
In 26 games for the Gators last season, Kelley averaged 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 blocked shots. She hit 12 3-point shots, shot 51 percent overall from the field and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
She looks to improve on those numbers next season. She thinks Xavier can improve on its 18-9 record and first-round exit from the Division I state tournament. The Gators are losing four seniors to graduation (Vanessa Murphy, Cydeni Carter, Sarah Perrin and Brielle Januszewski) but have a number of talented players who are expected to return.
They are (next year’s class standing in parentheses) Kelley (junior), Katie Hassett (junior), Addison Putnam (sophomore), Montana Oltrogge (junior), M.J. Machen (senior), Tatum Cork (senior), Brittney Robinson (senior), Leilani McIntosh (sophomore), Paris Rasheed-Moore (sophomore), Chelsea Brutlag (senior) and Lauren Donahue (junior).
“I think we will definitely be a competitive team,’’ Kelley said. “We have played with each other for awhile now. We can go farther than we did last year. We need to step it up.’’

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