Gophers women’s basketball forward Shae Kelley took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates with eligibility to transfer to another school without sitting out a year. After playing at Old Dominion, she joined the Gophers as a senior, and the program had high hopes that she would ease Rachel Banham’s scoring burden. With Banham out for the season, the versatile Kelley continues to play a key role and is averaging 15.9 points for a resilient team that is 3-0 in the Big Ten going into Sunday’s home showdown against Maryland. In advance of that game, she chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q When did you first become aware of the graduate transfer rule, and when did you start really considering it?
A Probably toward the end of last year. It was nothing I was thinking about early in the season — or that I thought I would be leaving at all. I knew that I would graduate. Minnesota had a graduate program in youth development leadership that I really liked, so I started contemplating back and forth and I thought this would be the best decision academically and for basketball.
Q You played against current Gophers coach Marlene Stollings’ VCU team while you were at Old Dominion. Now you’re playing for her. What’s it like being on this side of the ball?
A It’s much nicer. The first year we played I think it was one of her first years at VCU, and you could tell she was still trying to put in her tempo. I wasn’t as tired that game. But the second year, as a team, we were a little more winded toward the end of the game, which is now what I see in other teams now that I’m at Minnesota. They hit that wall and we’re still pushing through.
Q With Rachel Banham out, how much of the scoring burden falls to you?
A I just have to remain aggressive. Coach told me to be maybe even more aggressive now just to pick up some of that slack from Rachel. And Z [Amanda Zahui B.], she has to pick up the slack. But it also comes from the role players. They’ve had outstanding nights these past few games and it gives us all confidence.
Q You’re from Colorado originally, so you know about winter, but I have to ask the obligatory question: Were you ready for this Minnesota winter?
A [smiles] No. Absolutely not. This is nothing like Denver winter. You’ll get snow, but it will be sunny. This is freezing. I looked at my weather thing and it said negative 8. I was not prepared for this, but I got some coats and gloves so I’ll be all right.
Q I read in your bio that you like writing poetry. What do you write about?
A Sometimes just whatever I’m feeling. I could write a funny poem about basketball, or a happy poem. It’s just something for venting.
Q This Maryland game is a big deal. Quite a few Minnesota college and pro teams are struggling right now. If you beat Maryland, a lot of people are going to be hopping on board the bandwagon. Are you ready for that?
A Oh, yeah. That’s what we’ve been working this hard for — just to show that we are that team to beat and that we can come through adversity and still win.