Allen “Al” Kelley Born: December 24, 1932 (Dearing, GA)
Graduated: McCune High School (McCune, KS), 1950; University of Kansas, 1954
Allen Kelley: NCAA Basketball Champion. Olympic Basketball Champion. Inductee in Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Al Kelley is simply one of the most decorated basketball players in KU and state of Kansas history and he was an integral part of the successes enjoyed by every basketball team for which he ever played.
Kelley was raised in tiny McCune, Kansas, where he and his older brother Dean were standout basketball stars. Growing up, the two brothers were inseparable and younger brother Al was willing to follow Dean anywhere. It seems obvious then, why Al followed his older brother to the University of Kansas to play for legendary coach Phog Allen upon his graduation from McCune High School in 1950.
Kelley’s story wouldn’t have happened without the help of Allen’s assistant, and fellow KSHOF inductee, Dick Harp. Harp was instrumental in Kelley’s recruitment to KU and often spoke of the ferocity of the Kelley brothers, especially on the defensive end of the court.
Al saw limited time during his sophomore season in 1951-1952. That year, behind the senior leadership of All-American Clyde Lovellette, Bill Lienhard, Bob Kenney, John Keller, and Bill Hougland, the Jayhawks claimed the NCAA crown with a convincing 80-63 win over St. John’s in the title game. Kelley contributed to the national championship win with four points off the bench. Seven members of the KU 1952 NCAA championship team were members of the 1952 U.S. gold medal winning Olympic Team: Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland, John Keller, Dean Kelley, Robert Kenney, Bill Lienhard, and Clyde Lovellette. Phog Allen was an assistant coach for the Olympic squad. Hougland was named to the U.S. Olympic team again in 1956 and Allen Kelley was a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic squad. Still another member of the 1952 KU team was Dean Smith who went on to legendary status as the head coach of North Carolina. Smith coached the victorious 1976 U.S. Olympic team.
Kelley came into his own during his junior year the following season, scoring 12.9 points per game, second only to All-America B.H. Born. The 1952-53 Jayhawks once again made it to the NCAA title game, falling short to Indiana by one point despite a 20-point effort by Kelley. Following the season, Kelley was named to the First Team All-Big Seven squad.
During Kelley’s senior year, he was named a captain and his 12.4 points per game helped the Jayhawks to a 16-5 record and a share of the conference championship on his way to garnering All Big Seven conference honors for the second time. During his time at the University of Kansas, Kelley was a part of three teams which won outright or shared the conference championship.
He was drafted in the seventh round of the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Hawks in 1954 but turned down their offers and instead signed on to play with the powerhouse AAU Caterpillar team. While with the Caterpillars, Kelley competed in the 1954 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, winning the gold medal. And still, his best work was yet to come…
Following a loss to the college all-star team in the 1960 AAU Tournament, Kelley was one of three at-large players selected to play on the U.S. Olympic team alongside the collegiate all-stars which included Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson, West Virginia’s Jerry West, Kansas State’s Bob Boozer, and Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas. That 1960 U.S. Olympic squad has been called one of the greatest basketball teams in Olympic history and, in 2010, was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The U.S. team dominated the Rome Olympic Games, finishing 8-0 and beating their opponents by an average margin of over 42 points.