Central Christian senior guard Kaelon Gary joined an elite fraternity of players by eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for his career in a loss to College of the Ozarks on Jan. 11. The Tigers are 16-5 overall, 5-3 in MCAC play and on a three-game winning streak thanks in large part to the play of Gary, a Wichita Southeast product. He is averaging 15 points, 3.47 assists and 1.94 steals headed into Tuesday night’s game against Haskell in McPherson.
Sunflower Slate: Congratulations on reaching 1,ooo points. You’ve got a chance to finish out your career in a big way.
Kaelon Gary: Thank you. I feel like I missed so many games in my career that I would’ve had a shot at the career mark. I broke my foot and missed 17 games last year, and my freshman year I started the year on the junior varsity and did really well there before I got moved up to the varsity. This year, I had six games where I sat out because of disciplinary issues.
SS: What was the problem this year?
KG: I got in trouble with (Central Christian coach Tony Romero) and I had to sit out, just something between me and him. It was two exhibition games and four regular-season games. I learned my lesson … there’s no bad feelings between me and (Romero). He’s someone I’m really close with and feel like I have a bond with. The important thing is the team is back on track and we’re playing really, really good right now. I think we still have a shot at being the best team in the league and breaking into the rankings.
SS: You’ve been at Central Christian and living in McPherson for four years now, so what’s that like? Has to be a big change from spending your entire life in Wichita.
KG: The people here really take the time to know you and they really rally around you. I feel at home when I’m in McPherson. Our team does a lot of stuff with the community and going to different elementary schools and it feels good when I walk in and the kids are like ‘Hey Kaelon’ this or that and want to shoot with me and be around me. This summer I went with Athletes in Action for one month to play games in Puerto Rico and run camps and mentor the kids down there, so I needed to raise $3,500 to be able to go. I got a late start and was writing letters like crazy trying to get the money and this guy I know, Todd Alexander, who comes to our games and his dad was president of the college … he came up to me and asked me ‘Kaelon, are you still short?’ I told him I was and he said ‘I’ve got you for $1,000′ … I was blown away. That’s the kind of people I’ve been able to be around. I’ve got a lot of stories like that of people supporting the team and the players.
SS: So the trip went well?
KG: The trip was great. I got to see a lot of amazing things and I think with the camps we helped a lot of people. And I played pretty good down there.
SS: So you’d have to say getting away from Wichita has been a good thing for you?
KG: Wichita is pretty fast, and where I grew up and the things I grew up around it is pretty easy to go down the wrong path. When I was getting out of high school I was set on going to Hutchinson Community College to play wide receiver but something just told me to go to Central Christian.
SS: What sort of things did you grow up around? What do you mean?
KG: Just friends and family getting caught up. I had an uncle who went down in the RICO act cases in Wichita and got sentenced to five years in prison. He’s been knocked down a little but he’s trying to get his life back together for when he gets out. Stuff like that, stuff where you can make real mistakes that affect you forever … it was good for my life to slow down and come to a place like this where I learn different things and about different people.
SS: And now you’re on track to graduate, correct? What’s your plan after you get done with school?
KG: I’m going to graduate in May, I’ve got a liberal studies major in psychology and sports management. I’ve had a lot of family members join the military, so maybe the Army of the Air Force and then maybe coaching after that. I’ve got a real passion for helping kids and being around basketball. I’d like to go to a couple of D-League tryouts in Houston or maybe get a shot with a pro team in Puerto Rico, so we’ll see how that goes.