Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Unlikeliest Draftee

For college basketball players, entering the NBA Draft earlier than your senior year has been getting tougher and tougher. This year, players have only from April 28th until May 8th to decide if they are NBA-worthy or not. That's just 10 days to know if their future is best served by entering the Draft, or staying in college another year. Every year, lists of non-seniors who declared come out, with draft experts deciding who should stay in the draft (i.e., Duke's Kyrie Irving) and who should return to the college (i.e., Pitt's Ashton Gibbs). Most of the names on this year's early-entry list are familiar college stars. Players like Arizona forward Derrick Williams, Florida State junior Chris Singleton, Butler big-shot junior Shelvin Mack, as well as 87 other NCAA and foreign players have thrown their hats into the ring. There's one entry on that list, however, that even the most astute NBA Draft watchers had not heard of: Dan Kelm, a sophomore guard from Viterbo (WI) University. So, what is a self-described "six-foot-tall slow-footed jump shooter" doing in the NBA Draft? Hit the jump to find out!

Kelm (R) declared for the 2011 NBA Draft
After his sophomore season as a V-Hawk, Dan Kelm realized that his college basketball career was going to have to come to an end. An accounting student, Kelm knew he would need to take an internship during tax season to gain real-world experience. Unfortunately, that meant taking an internship in Milwaukee, four hours from Viterbo. Kelm would no longer be able to play for his school, would have to give up sneakers and jerseys for tax forms and calculators. However, Kelm was realistic about his ability to continue playing basketball, and so he decided to have a little fun with his situation. "I'd seen on the internet, quite a few times...people were saying just how easy it is to declare for the draft" said Kelm. After sending a letter to the NBA headquarters in New York and spending "15 minutes" filling out some paperwork, Kelm was officially added to the list of NBA Draft early entries, right between Colorado's Daniel Kelly and Kentucky superfrosh Brandon Knight.

Dan had only played 45 minutes out of his school's 31-game season, scoring 16 points on the year, but that didn't mean he wasn't a valuable member of the V-Hawks Squad. "The stats don't tell Dan's whole story," said junior guard Chris Millner. "He's always the first one off the bench, always ready to cheer." Kelm wasn't used to being a bench player before Viterbo--he was a two-time all-conference selection at Kettle Moraine High School, playing at the top level of Wisconsin high school hoops. His senior year, Kelm was named a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches' Association All-Star, but he didn't let all the success get to his head. Instead, he spent two years on the Viterbo bench, cheering his team on and becoming "the best teammate," according to Millner. "If you need a little pick-me-up, a little joke on the bench, he's always there for you." That personality comes through even over the phone, but it's the most obvious in his NBA Draft declaration video. It's clear why Kelm was so well-liked on the team, and Millner said he wasn't surprised when told that Kelm was declaring. In fact, Millner thinks Kelm already has one NBA-level talent: he's "probably one of the greatest fist-bumpers I've seen in my entire life."

Kelm calls himself a "basketball nerd," a huge Milwaukee Bucks fan though he prefers the college game. He admits its highly unlikely he would ever get drafted, but he sees himself as the potential "Brian Scalabrine of the Milwaukee Bucks." It's clear that basketball is in his blood--after college, Kelm said he wants to coach at the high school level in addition to accounting. This summer, he'll be playing in Milwaukee's Closed Gym League, whose best players could "compete with any team in the NBA" according to Kelm. However, he still isn't counting out some kind of professional basketball career. When asked about his dream job, he was quick with a response: NBA general manager. With a solid knowledge of the game, the smarts to be an accountant, and the personality needed to be successful, there's one dream that Dan Kelm just might reach.

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