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Kelser’s diminutive size doesn’t hold him back from making big plays for Walled Lake Central

By: Scott Burnstein, March 16, 2015, 10:46 am

Commerce Township – Walled Lake Central boys basketball coach Chuck Spolsky does a pretty accurate job summing up his star player, junior guard Walter Kelser, in two short sentences.

“Walter is simply a relentless competitor,” Spolsky said. “He doesn’t back down from anyone or anything on the basketball floor.”

Watching Kelser play, those sentiments ring true.

Standing barely 5-foot-10, Kelser plays larger than his height, which seems natural considering his dad and uncle are Ray and Greg Kelser, respectively, a pair of 6-foot-7 string beans that played Division I college basketball in the frontcourt.

If Walter was that size, he might easily be a high Division I college recruit, getting looks from his uncle’s alma mater, Michigan State and other Big Ten powers.

As of right now, he’s still trying to make a name for himself on the statewide recruiting stage and in search of his first Division I scholarship offer.

His junior season is a significant step in that direction. A first-team all-Kensington Lakes Activities Association selection, Kelser is averaging 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals per game on a Central club that is 19-4 and won a Class A district title.

The Vikings claimed a share of the KLAA Northern Division title and then on the shoulders of Kelser’s last-second heroics won the program’s first district crown in four years back on Friday with a 40-39 edging of crosstown rival Walled Lake Western.

With the game tied at 39-39 on the Vikings’ own home floor, Kelser picked the pocket of a Western ball handler on the right sideline with seven seconds left. After his swipe, he was fouled and made the game-winning free throw.

“I just try to make plays,” he said of his steal and subsequent free throw Friday night. “Those were two plays that I needed to make.”

He made a few clutch plays the previous time he and the Vikings squared off with Western, too. In the KLAA championship game two weeks ago, Kelser scored 41 points in a 74-66 loss. That total is third most in Central history. Kelser was 24-of-25 from the free throw line, good for second-best all-time in the Michigan High School Athletic Association record book.

“I’m convinced he’s the No. 1 player in Oakland County,” said Spolsky of Kelser, who has been on varsity since he was a freshman and starting since last year as a sophomore. “He attacks the basket harder than any other player I’ve seen this whole year.”

Protecting him from opposing teams overplaying his dribble drive is the fact that he’s shooting close to 50 percent from 3-point distance and displays deep range.

“I fight hard out there on the court no matter what and positive things are occurring as a result,” said Kelser of his current-season performance. “My teammates trust me to have the ball in my hands with the game on the line, I don’t want to let them down, so I go at with everything I’ve got. I get into the lane or get into a rhythm from outside and that makes things happen for us.”

The hoops heritage he spawns from – Ron played at Eastern Michigan and Greg is one of Michigan State’s all-time greats and a retired pro – motivates him to keep improving.

“My lineage inspires me,” he said. “It’s my job to keep the family tradition alive.”

Central plays Howell Monday evening at Holly High School in a regional semifinal. The Vikings beat Howell (2014 quarterfinalist) earlier in the season by double-digits.

“The Howell game is going to be tough,” he said. “They are the kind of team that plays aggressive and we’re going to need to match that aggressiveness. I have confidence in this team. If we stay focused, the sky’s the limit for us.”