When freshman attackman Jacob Kelly committed to UNC over the weekend, very few people were surprised.
After all, Carolina blue is in his blood.
His father, Bryan – the longtime head coach at MIAA power Calvert Hall (Md.) – was a defenseman on the Tar Heels’ last national championship team in 1991. His first cousin, Frankie, is a recent Carolina lacrosse alum while cousins Patrick and Stephen are currently standouts for the Tar Heels with one more, Patrick’s brother Timmy (the nation’s No. 2 senior), off to UNC after one more year at Calvert Hall.
However, despite all of those connections to the Tar Heels, Jacob points out that it was an incredibly difficult decision, ultimately selecting North Carolina over Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State and High Point.
Kelly, who plays club for FCA Maryland, has had the distinct advantage of playing up an age bracket over the years. Even last fall as an 8th grader at the Terrapin Classic (which he’ll also attend Saturday), the athletic lefty attackman was regularly making plays. In the summer, he was a 2018 All-Star at FLG in 3D, making the ’16/’17 ASG at Baltimore Summer Kickoff and ’17 ASG at King of the Hill. In addition, Kelly was also one of the top attackmen at Nike Blue Chip Rising Freshmen and has plans to attend the Philly Freshman Showcase.
A complete quarterback type with an off-the-charts lacrosse IQ, he’s able to consistently get topside with his dodges and is also an excellent feeder and rider. Tweaking his shot and bulking up will be pivotal to his progress, according to FCA and Calvert Hall coach Travis Crane.
“I think he has to work on his right hand and continue to add range to his shot in order to stretch the defense a bit better,” Crane, a former captain at Penn State says of Kelly. “If CHC wants to have the year that we hope to have – and that means competing for a MIAA championship – then he’s going to need to have a large role in the offense. A lot of development will have to happen, including Jacob getting bigger, stronger and working on his mechanics.”
I spoke with Kelly, who excels in soccer during the fall, on Wednesday night to hear more about the decision.
How did the recruiting process go for you? Did you feel like you had an advantage having your Dad as someone who had helped dozens of Calvert Hall players through the process?
It was a long process but I really enjoyed it and never felt any pressure from the coaches whatsoever. Personally, I just wanted to commit before the end of the fall so I could focus on everything else.
I feel like my Dad definitely did a really good job sort of managing the whole thing because he knows so much more than the average father would. He’s not a fan of early recruiting but we went through it and took our time to make sure we got to know every school very well. It’s a tough decision for a freshman to make but I feel great about my commitment to Carolina.
What was it about North Carolina?
The school has been in my family a long time with my father being an alum. At first, that history had little to do with my decision and as I went through the process, I became more open to all of the other schools. I really enjoyed every program but it was just the little things at UNC that did it for me plus I felt like being away from home was a more comfortable option. I looked at all of the constants about North Carolina – the academics, environment, lacrosse program and the big-time athletics like the basketball team – and felt like it was the perfect fit.
Joe Breschi was a teammate of your father’s back in the day. What’s your relationship like with him?
I loved every coach I met during the process but felt especially comfortable with him since we had met a few times before my visit. I’m sure it was almost difficult for him in a way to recruit me because of my Dad at first but we became really well acquainted with each other as time went on and he’s an awesome guy. It’s funny to think about them being in college together not knowing that this would all happen.
What was it like growing up in a renowned lacrosse family?
I have enjoyed every second of it whether that’s been watching my Dad coach or cousins play because that’s truly where I’ve learned the most about the game. It has definitely motivated me to push myself because I see them do so well and I really try and soak in everything they teach me since I look up to them so much. Being around the Calvert Hall program has been a great experience and I can’t wait to play for the program this spring.
Who would you like to thank for helping get you to where you are?
First off, I want to thank God and my family – my parents, brothers, cousins, grandparents and my uncles. In particular, my uncle David for opening things up for me and bringing some things to my attention. My cousins have all supported me through it and shared a lot about their experience so that helped tremendously.
I’d also like to thank all of the coaches that recruited me, it was truly a great experience getting to know all of those awesome programs. I’d also like to thank all of my coaches but especially Travis Crane for being extremely helpful on and off the field.