PORT ORCHARD — Centralia College men’s basketball first landed on Kyler Kelso’s radar when a friend, North Kitsap state champion Shaa Humphrey, told him the Trailblazers were looking for recruits.
Kelso began researching the team online and checking out their social media before Humphrey gave him assistant coach Jonathan McMillan’s number officially began communication. Kelso, who had interest from a few schools around the state, committed on July 14, choosing the Blazers because of how smooth the recruiting process was.
His biggest questions regarding the team were who was returning, who was staying and what school would look like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a lot of questions at first, and still do, but both coaches made it super easy, always answered, always been honest and upfront,” Kelso said. “They have a mission, I have a mission and I feel that’s always been established. That’s been the main goal, ever since I started talking with them.”
Kelso, a recent graduate of South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard, was a four-year starter for the Wolves, beginning as a 6-foot-5 freshman center.
“I sat down with my dad and talked about taking the game seriously,” Kelso said. “That was about my freshman year. Ever since then, basketball has been the No. 1 thing in my life.”
He had a breakout year as a junior after switching to the wing, averaging 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while earning a 4A South Puget Sound League (SPSL) honorable mention selection.
As a senior, the 6-foot-6 forward averaged 14 points and seven rebounds a game while leading the Wolves (11-13, 8-8 SPSL) to within one game of the state regional round. He later scored 17 points in the West Sound Senior All-Star Game. Kelso capped his high school career with an SPSL second-team selection and was part of the Kitsap Sun’s all-area boys basketball team.
Kelso, who’s grown by only one inch in height since his freshman year, knows how to use his length on the floor, get low and block shots effectively. Perhaps his best attribute is his shooting, where he can get hot from long-range, specifically the corner wing.
“A 6-foot-6 do-it-all type of guy,” McMillan said. “Explosive with the ability to guard all positions. The type of player that can get a rebound and take it himself to create.”
He will have a chance to earn a pivotal role on the Blazers next year as the team is losing four seniors, all of which logged 25-plus minutes per game. A few key freshmen are also leaving, including 6-foot-6 second-leading scorer Kobe Matsen (11.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and Jerry Boston (10.3 points).
That will open up substantial playing time for the six-to-seven incoming freshmen in this class, along with a couple sophomore transfers.
The Blazers finished the 2019-20 season 11-17 overall and 6-8 in league play, finishing sixth out of eight teams in the West Region.
“I’m excited about going there, getting ready, just expanding my IQ, expanding my game, getting better, getting stronger and using Centralia as a stepping stone to go to a four year,” Kelso said.
McMillan is already looking forward to adding Kelso to the roster and getting the new-look Blazers on the floor and practicing for next season.
“I like Kyler because we can do a lot of things on offense with him,” McMillan said. “I expect him to be a four-year kid, for sure. Another kid who comes from a great program and is all about winning. He’s a great kid, period.”