Oly's Kelstrup: A sharpshooter with perspective

Geoff Kelstrup and his Olympic High teammats will be on display in the two-day Kitsap Classic, which begins Friday, Dec.28 at the Olympic High gym. The Trojans (3-5) face Auburn Riverside (2-6) of the South Puget Sound League at 7 p.m. Ellensburg (4-1), a member of the Class 3A Mid Valley League, takes on the SPSL’s Thomas Jefferson (1-6) in the opener. - Rogerick Anas
Geoff Kelstrup and his Olympic High teammats will be on display in the two-day Kitsap Classic, which begins Friday, Dec.28 at the Olympic High gym. The Trojans (3-5) face Auburn Riverside (2-6) of the South Puget Sound League at 7 p.m. Ellensburg (4-1), a member of the Class 3A Mid Valley League, takes on the SPSL’s Thomas Jefferson (1-6) in the opener.
— image credit: Rogerick Anas

Sure, Geoff Kelstrup would like to be about four inches taller.

And he’d like to be leading a basketball team that’s contending for a league title.

But he’s not.

The Olympic High senior, as pure an outside shooter that’s come through the West Sound region in recent years, can deal with it.

“I wish I was a little taller, but I’m thankful for everything I have,” said Kelstrup, who’s listed at 5-foot-11, but says, “Honestly, I’m 5-10.”

It’s not stopped him from dealing on the court, where despite being a target of opposing defenses, he’s averaging 18.9 points and making an impressive 47 percent of his three-point attempts (30 of 64).

“I’m not going to make petty things for what I don’t have,” Kelstrup said. “I just watched (the movie) Pearl Harbor. ... I’m just thankful I can play basketball, and get an education. If I can play at the next level, I’ll be thrilled.”

The next level, for Kelstrup, will likely be at a community college or perhaps an NCAA Division III college like the University of Puget Sound, which has shown some interest in the sharp-shooting guard.

That’s down the road, though.

“Right now I’m more concentrated on what this season’s about,” Kelstrup said. “I’m trying to make our team better. I’ll worry about that other stuff after the season’s over.”

Olympic’s goal is to make it to the postseason, which would require a fourth-place finish in the Narrows League Bridge Division. The Trojans (0-2 league, 3-5 overall) carry a modest two-game winning streak into the the Kitsap Classic, a four-team tournament that Olympic will host Dec. 28-29.

Olympic felt it gave away games against Foss and Port Angeles, leading virtually all the way until faltering in the fourth quarter.

“It’s frustrating,” Kelstrup said, “but the way I look at it, you learn from it. It’s done and over with. You learn your lesson and try not to do it again. It’s nothing worth losing sleep over. It’s frustrating, yeah, but life goes on.”

Kelstrup started making a name for himself in the junior high ranks, where he popped in a career-high 42 one day for Fairview Junior High.

“I think he had some 30-point halves for us,” said Mark Eathorne, Kelstrup’s coach at Fairview. “He was a phenomenal shooter. He’s the best all-around player I’ve ever had on my team at that level.

“The thing is he was the same size he is now. I remember as a seventh-grader he was kind of chunky, but he really worked hard to trim down.”

Kelstrup made an impact as a sophomore at Olympic.

Trojans coach Robert Polk remembered the district playoff win over South Kitsap that year.

“They went to a zone defense. I got Geoff in and he hit three straight threes and helped us blow out SK that night.”

Kelstrup poured in 37 points in a season-ending win over Central Kitsap last year, a year that ended without a playoff berth.

Now, he’s a marked man on a team that doesn’t really have another consistent scoring threat.

“Last year we had Casey Manchester (now at Olympic College), who took a lot of pressure off Geoff and made it easier for him to get shots,” Polk said. “We could use another scorer. Basically, it’s scoring by committee and then Geoff. The other teams try everything they can to keep the ball out of his hands.”

Kelstrup welcomes the pressure.

“I like it,” he said. “It makes me want to elevate my game because I know I have to step it up every night. I was watching the Duke-Kentucky game the other night and Kentucky knew (Duke’s) Jason Williams was going to get the ball and he scored anyway. Good players find a way to get the ball even if the other team knows he’s going to get it.”

Scoring points, however, isn’t the goal.

“I’d rather score one or two points and win than score 40 points and lose,” Kelstrup said. “To me, being in the paper for scoring a lot of points and seeing your team didn’t win the game, that’s pointless really.”

The outside shot remains his best weapon, but Kelstrup’s been finding other ways to make things happen.

In Olympic’s first four games, Kelstrup attempted just nine free throws. He’s attempted 23 in his last three and is shooting 91 percent (29 of 32) from the line.

“I was taking more threes than twos,” Kelstrup said. “Mr. Polk told me I needed to drive more, and it’s opening up my game more. I’m getting to the line now. And when the defense dumps down on me, I can kick it back out for a jumper or hit somebody inside for a layup.”

Kelstrup credits a former neighbor, Robbie Delphonso, for helping develop his jump shot.

“He was over at the house all the time, shooting with me,” Kelstrup said. “He was the one who emphasized using the left hand on my shot. When I got older, I was able to shoot from a longer distance.”

Delphonso, now 22,, was an eighth grader when he started showing up at the Kelstrup’s out door hoop.

“We were out there every day. Rain, snow, it didn’t matter,” Delphonso said. “He just like to play and he always wanted to get better. I don’t deserve the credit. I just showed him what he needed to know and how to apply it to what he does.

“He was always a nice kid who loved basketball. He’s still a nice kid who loves basketball.”

Kelstrup’s mother, Nancy, was another big influence. Nancy, a women’s basketball official, coached the girls team at Fairview when Geoff was in junior high.

“She was always there to support me,” Geoff said. “If I wanted someone to rebound for me, she was there. She’s still there for me. She’s the one who is around me the most. If my shot’s going south, she can tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

Kelstrup’s confidence was enhanced by his experience at a week-long Tourney Sport USA camp in Hawaii last summer where he got to play against top-quality competition from around the country.

“That was humbling,” Kelstrup said. “There were 150 guys there as good or better than you.”

But Kelstrup fit in and wound up averaging 12 points while playing on the team that won the tournament.

“Everyone had equal playing time,” he said. “You played four minutes a quarter. My team averaged 95 points in eight-minute quarters. We scored over 100 twice and broke a couple tournament records.

“I came back thinking, if you can play with these guys, you can play with anybody,” he said.

That confidence has carried over.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact this is my senior year,” he said. “This is my year. You start off your sophomore year kind of tentative. You don’t know if you should shoot it. Your junior year, you’re more loose about it. The confidence builds as you go.

“It also depends if you’re making the shots or not. I’m fortunate enough that a lot of my shots have been going in lately.”

Polk’s given Kelstrup the green light to shoot it, but the Trojans’ coach did come unglued when Kelstrup tossed up a bomb in the season-opener at Shelton.

“I was probably three feet behind the (3-point line), maybe five feet,” Kelstrup said. “I just shot it. It was kind of funny because I’d been joking with Mr. Polk in practice. I told him I knew this new play where you just dribble and shoot it from deep. So I shoot it from deep at Shelton and everybody on the bench was ready to wring my neck.”

That was before it went in.

“On the bus ride home, Mr. Polk came up to me and apologized,” Kelstrup said.

Kitsap Classic

When: Dec. 28-29.

Where: Olympic High School.

What: Boys basketball tournament, sponsored by the Central Kitsap Reporter and other local businesses.

Varsity Schedule: Friday, 28th — Thomas Jefferson (1-6) vs. Ellensburg (4-1), 5:30 p.m.; Auburn Riverside (2-6) vs. Olympic (3-5), 7 p.m. Saturday, 29th — Consolation game at 5:30 p.m., championship at 7 p.m.

Junior varsity schedule: Friday, 28th — Thomas Jefferson vs. Ellensburg, 2 p.m.; Auburn Riverside vs. Olympic, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, 29th — Consolaton game at 2 p.m.; championship 3:30 p.m.

Cost: $5 adults, $3 students with ASB. (Students with ASB cards get in free if they bring a can of food to the gym. Adults get a $2 discount if they bring a can of food, which will be donated to the Central Kitsap Food Bank.

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