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100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Al Kelley, basketball

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Posted at 8:00 AM, May 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 09:00:24-04

Allen "Al" Kelley — a native of Dearing in southeast Kansas — played a limited role on the 1952 NCAA champion University of Kansas men’s basketball team.

But he emerged as a star during his final two seasons with the Jayhawks, which eventually earned him a spot on arguably the greatest amateur basketball team ever assembled.

Kelley went on to help lead the Peoria Caterpillars to multiple AAU national championships (1958, 1960) and was a backup guard on the gold medal-winning 1960 U.S. Olympic team.

He only averaged 0.6 points during the U.S. team’s eight games at the 1960 Rome Olympics, playing behind Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.

Kelley scored four points in a 90-63 win against Brazil in the Olympic final.

The 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, which also featured leading-scorer Jerry Lucas and Kansas State great Bob Boozer, has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Kelley, who served as a captain for KU’s 1953-54 squad, only appeared in nine games and averaged 0.2 points as a sophomore on the 1952 squad.

As a junior in 1952-53, Kelley stepped up in a big way, averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, both the second-most for the NCAA national runner-up Jayhawks.

Kelley scored 20 points with six rebounds in a 69-68 loss against Indiana during the 1953 NCAA final.

As a senior, Kelley helped Kansas win a share of a third straight Big 7 Conference title, averaging 12.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game before helping the U.S. win the Basketball World Cup in 1954 and joining Peoria.

Kelley was enshrined in the KU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008 and was inducted in the national hall of fame with the Olympic team two years later.

He also briefly served in the U.S. Air Force, helping its team to an AAU national title in 1957 before returning to Peoria.

Kelley’s brother, Dean, also played three seasons at Kansas (1950-53) and won a gold medal with the 1952 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

41 Action News and KSHB.com is your home of the Tokyo Olympics. Follow our coverage at kshb.com/sports/olympics and check out our complete list of 100 Kansas City-area Olympians as it is revealed.

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