December 14, 2022

With Transfer Kelly Finding a Comfort Level, Hun Boys’ Hoops Heading in Right Direction

MAC ATTACK: Hun School boys’ basketball player Mac Kelly drives to the basket in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior guard Kelly scored 28 points, including 24 in the second half, to help Hun defeat Pennington. The Raiders, who defeated Peddie 70-59 in a third-place game at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament last Sunday in improving to 5-3, host the Life Center Academy on December 15 in its last action before the holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming from Long Island this fall to join the Hun School boys’ hoops team, Mac Kelly took a while to get up to speed.

“Early on, it is nerve-wracking, it is different,” said Kelly, a 6’1 native of Mineola, N.Y. “The level of play is higher. I have been able to adjust to it and grow. I think now I feel I am right in there. There are no more nerves which is big.”

Last Wednesday as Hun hosted Pennington, Kelly displayed his growth, tallying 28 points, including 24 in the second half, to help the Raiders pull away to a 90-68 victory.

With Hun clinging to a 33-32 halftime lead and missing several players due to injury and illness, Kelly was ready to take things to another level in the second half.

“I came into the locker room at halftime, I knew I had to step it up,” said Kelly. “It was a tight game.”

As the second half unfolded, Kelly caught fire, scoring nine straight points for the Raiders as Hun went from leading 48-46 to a 57-48 advantage and never looked back.

“That is the best place to be, trying to find yourself in a zone,” said Kelly, reflecting on his second half outburst. “Luckily the ball was finding me. I didn’t have to force too much.”

With Hun outscoring the Red Hawks 57-36 in the second half, a lot of Raiders ended up finding the range.

“Tonight I think the team did a great job with that next man up mentality,” said Kelly. “Guys are out. You don’t necessarily have to fill in for the guys who are out, you just fill in for the team. I thought we really did that, especially in the second half.”

Kelly got set up on several of his baskets on passes from another newcomer, Symeon Efstathiou.

“Just playing pickup I tried to establish a connection with him,” said Kelly of Efstathiou. “Since pickup, we were able to establish a good chemistry. It shows out there.”

Kelly believes that coming to Hun will help him show that he can play at the next level.

“It was just the opportunity to get better,” said Kelly. “I love this game. I knew this was an opportunity that could really just make me get better and accomplish a dream I have been chasing all my life, playing at the collegiate level.”

Being on the court with Raider star guards Dan Vessey and Anthony Loscalzo has been a great opportunity for Kelly.

“Playing with those guys is awesome,” said Kelly. “Anthony can really shoot it. Dan is a really great player and I learn a lot from him. Just having those two guys out there makes my job easier.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone was proud of how his players utilized the next man up mentality to get the job done against Pennington.

“We were missing a guy this weekend and we talked about how important it is for the whole team to collectively pick it up and not one person try to take over for the one guy,” said Stone. “We were missing five guys today. When you are missing that many, guys have to step up. We had guys step up and do great job with it. It was real fun.”

Stone had fun watching his team pull away from Pennington. “We got off to a really good start, our defense let up a little bit and then our execution on offense also let up,” said Stone. “The combination of those things gave us a little bit of a letdown. I think we did a pretty good job of correcting those in the second half.”

Kelly’s really good second half came as no surprise to Stone. “Mac hitting threes and going to the basket and getting some backdoors was big,” said Stone. “He has been solid for us all year and really, really steady. We love him. I think one of the most underrated sides of his game is his defense. He is a really, really good defender and really helps us.”

Efstathiou’s all-around game was a big plus for Hun. “That is his thing, he really loves to be playmaker and yet we need him to score too,” said Stone of star forward Efstathiou, a native of Athens, Greece who has committed to attend Brown University and play for its men’s hoops program. “He showed flashes of that tonight. We didn’t do as great a job getting him the ball at times. We started to do more of that in the second half and it opened things up for our guards.”

Senior forward Anthony Aririguzoh chipped in 12 points against Pennington, doing some yeoman’s work in the paint.

“Anthony is so solid for us. Those games where he doesn’t score very much, you can’t put a price tag on the value he stills gives us,” said Stone. “He gives the intensity and the little things that not everybody always sees — the rebounds, the great defense, a blocked shot, or a charge taken. He is capable of scoring.”

The intensity Hun displayed against the Red Hawks carried over into the weekend as the Raiders went 2-1 at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, topping host Peddie 70-59 last Sunday in a third place game to improve to 5-3.

“There was a lot of balance, a lot of teamwork out there at both ends of the floor,” said Stone, whose team hosts Life Center Academy on December 15 in its last action before the holiday break. “It is going to make us better down the road because guys are getting more experienced now than they might have been otherwise if we had everybody.”

Kelly, for his part, is looking to keep getting better. “I just hope I can continue to play well and see where we go from here,” said Kelly.