By KYLE LOVERN
WILLIAMSON DAILY NEWS
GOODY, Ky. – University of Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells recently had a big decision to make about his future and career.
Stay at Pikeville or move up a level to Division One and on top of that, get a chance to coach at his alma mater Morehead State.
When all was said and done, Wells decided it was best for him and his family to stay in Pikeville.
Just two seasons ago Wells led UPike to the school’s first-ever NAIA national basketball championship. Most recently former Kentucky Mr. Basketball and Shelby Valley alumnus Elisha Justice transferred from Louisville back to his home town.
Wells also had a couple of other D-1 transfers and a couple of top-notch recruits coming in this season to go along with some solid returning players including Trevor Setty.
“When you have those opportunities you reflect on the great things you have,” Wells said during an interview prior to speaking at a basketball camp at Belfry High School. “I’ve always been told not to mess with happiness and we are certainly happy where we are at.”
“There are still a lot of things we can accomplish at Pikeville and we want to see this thing out,” Wells added.
Donned in a Bears orange polo shirt, Wells is always one to promote his school. Wells said not only did his family help him make the decision to stay at Pikeville, but so did his players.
“Certainly the class we have coming in is very exciting,” Wells said of the new members of his squad. “But we still have some work to do with recruiting. But, we’re excited with where we’re at. And the move to the Expo Center is almost completely. There are just a lot of great things happening with the university.”
“We are getting ready to explode here and I want to be a part of that,” he added.
As for his lineup, Wells is excited about Justice coming in as point guard. He says he can put Setty back at his natural position as a wing and shooter. “Adding Chris Johnson another Division One transfer at a two guard really gives us a lot of options.”
Wells also has brought in a 6-8 post player Terrance Santil, who should help down under the basket. Johnson is from St. Francis (Pennsylvania) and is a 5-10 guard.
Cody Malicoat is a 6-5 swingman from Jellico High School, and Zach Howard is a 6-2 guard from Science Hill High School in Johnson City. Both will join the Bears in time for the fall 2012 semester to continue their educational opportunities and to play basketball. They will be joined by Trevon Flores, a 6-11 junior from Columbus, Ohio, who played at James Madison University
Both Justice and Santil, who transferred from VCU, played in the NCAA Final Four.
Wells said he has been able to recruit positions that the Bears needed, but he is not finished yet. He said this week he had some kids coming in and he hopes to sign one more player.
Besides Justice, who is returning to his Pike County roots, a couple of other local players should see action this season. They include former Pike Central guard Hobo McCoy and Josh Whittaker from Hazard. Wells thinks that McCoy could have a breakout season with some hard work this summer. Whittaker started some last season, but will likely play a key role off the bench with the edition of Justice at point guard.
“We want a mixture of local kids and some from other areas of the United States,” Wells said of building a winning program.
He also hopes that the new talent, especially with some young men from the region, will draw more fans to the Expo Center to watch the Bears.
“We’ve tried hard to promote the Bears in this area,” Wells said of the Belfry and Williamson area. “My wife (Shawne Marcum Wells who played at Burch and at Morehead State) is from this area. We want to keep the interest up from this vicinity. Some of my family and my best friends are from this area. We think people like Elisha (Justice) can do things from a PR standpoint that I could never do. Hopefully we are moving in the right direction.”
“The sky is the limit for our program and like I tell everyone, eastern Kentucky is the place to be,” Wells concluded. “We are excited about the future.”