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    Then & Now: Kelly Lively

    Then & Now: Kelly Lively

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)


    Lively played at Nebraska from 1989-1991, and was a key

    member of the 1990-1991 team that won a school record 26


    The 7’0” 215 pound Lively served as

    Rich King’s backup while at Nebraska, and was recently

    back in Lincoln last weekend as part of the 1990-1991

    Team Reunion, including the

    HHC exclusive meet and greet at P.O. Pears.

    Lively is our latest guest in this Sunday’s edition of

    “Then & Now”.

    HHC: Thanks for

    joining us. Did you have fun last weekend?

    KL: Oh yeah. I loved being down on the

    floor at the Devaney Center and seeing a real big

    turnout. Just seeing all the fans in full gear was great

    again. The fact that we lost was the absolute low point

    of last weekend, but the high point was being down there

    at halftime.

    HHC: Agreed on that

    game, it was depressing. Anyway, you played high school

    basketball at Torrington High School, where you were

    named the Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year in your

    senior season (1987) after averaging 16.0 PPG, 10.6 RPG,

    and leading your team to a 23-0 record and state

    championship. What was it like being a part of that, and

    did it help prepare you well for the Big 8?

    KL: High school was a

    good time, but did it prepare me for the Big 8 at all?

    Absolutely not.

    That year in 1987, the Big 8 was at

    its all-time high. I think Kansas and Oklahoma played

    for the final, and competition in Wyoming was nowhere

    near the caliber that I was about to see that next year

    at Nebraska.

    I think that in 1988, I ended up

    touring around on a Big 8 team, going to places like

    Czechoslovakia with future NBA players like Doug Smith,

    and representatives from Kansas and Oklahoma.

    HHC: What made you choose to come play

    basketball at Nebraska, and who else recruited you hard?

    KL: I was actually recruited by Creighton.

    They were one of the five trips that I took. I looked at

    schools in Colorado and Oklahoma as well. Not Oklahoma

    or Oklahoma State, but Tulsa, who was one of the first

    schools interested in me.

    What made me come to Nebraska? I

    think it was close enough to home for friends and family

    to be able to see me play, but not too close where your

    parents are there every weekend type of thing. Also, in

    order to play beyond college, I was going to have to put

    on a lot of strength and weight, and I thought if anyone

    could do that, it’d be Nebraska.

    Plus, the strength and reputation

    of the Big 8 was a big draw as well, as was the quality

    of academic program. It was all a great package.

    HHC: What was the perception of Nebraska

    basketball to an out of state high school kid back then,

    and what did you know about the Huskers?

    KL: (Laughs) I knew very little about

    Nebraska basketball. But Torrington is right on the

    border of Wyoming and Nebraska, so there’s such an

    influence where you either love them or hated them. It

    was kind of like back in the days you were either rock

    and roll or country, there was no in-between, it was

    kind of the same thing.

    I knew that the state of Nebraska

    supported the university tremendously. I had

    opportunities to go to the coast in big cities and cause

    lots of trouble. (Laughs) But I got in the least amount

    of trouble during my visit to Nebraska as anywhere, so I

    thought it was the one. I hung out with Beau (Reid) and

    Bill (Jackman), and thought, “this is where I need to

    be, because going to school in Los Angeles would get you

    in all kinds of trouble.”

    HHC: Talk about your relationship with

    Danny Nee, both at the start of your career and at the


    KL: Well, let’s say

    that Danny and I are probably complete opposites. You

    take somebody who grew up in Brooklyn, and someone who

    grew up in Cowboy country. And I’m much more laid back

    and easy going, relaxed, and Danny was just the


    On a person-to-person basis, we

    didn’t have a lot in common or get along extremely well.

    But I have uttermost respect for the guy, and thought he

    did a great job administering and running a great


    And I’d do it again - I was

    thinking about that last weekend. It didn’t turn out

    nearly what I thought it was going to be in a lot of

    different ways, but I think I’d do it again. It was a

    good experience, real good education, and a great group

    of guys.

    HHC: You sat out in 1987-1988 to gain

    strength and endurance, and as you mentioned earlier,

    traveled with the Big 8 All-Star team to England and

    Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1988. What was that

    experience like?

    KL: Sitting out was good exposure and

    allowed me to mature and ease into things. And then,

    having the opportunity to go on that trip and play on

    that team was a once in a lifetime opportunity,

    especially for a freshman when you’re playing with guys

    with a lot more experience who have had good success as

    starters for teams that were playing in the national

    championship. You’ve got guys on your team wearing the

    championship ring on their finger, and it’s a real good

    experience to learn from them and spend a couple of

    weeks practicing and traveling around.

    European ball was much more

    aggressive back then, as far as compared to collegiate

    ball in the United States. Inside play was more

    aggressive, and I think all of that was a good

    preparation for what kind of ball we’d be playing in the

    Big 8.

    HHC: 1988-1989 saw your team go 17-16 and

    into the 2nd round of the NIT. What sticks

    out about that season?

    KL: To be honest, I’m drawing a blank

    there. I don’t remember the NIT much, but I do remember

    playing at home in front of big crowds and getting a lot

    of home support from the crowd.

    HHC: 1989-1990 was a season of injury and

    disappointment, as your team finished 10-18 and 7th

    in the Big 8. How tough was that season to swallow?

    KL: I think it was a

    real gut check type of year. It was a year that pushed

    enough people to the edge to think, “What are we going

    to do?” Most of those people were sophomores at the

    time, and their careers were half over, and it was

    really a gut check type of thing. We all made the

    commitment that we were sticking together and were going

    to make it work by working harder in the off-season to

    turn that program around.

    HHC: Prior to

    1990-1991, did you honestly have any idea that the team

    would become near as good as it did?

    KL: I think that’s probably the sweetest

    aspect of the whole thing. From spending time last

    weekend reminiscing, I forgot the fact that some of the

    coaches and press had picked us 8th in the

    Big 8, and we end up 9th in the country.

    We talked about stories like

    winning at Oklahoma that year. We weren’t supposed to do

    that, let alone by 28 or 30 points, and that was

    probably one of the highlights of the year. Just walking

    out of Norman saying, “We weren’t supposed to do this.”

    We were absolutely playing the best

    we could at that time.

    HHC: The 1990-1991 team went 26-8 and

    finished in the Top 10 of some polls. What made that

    team so successful?

    KL: We spent a lot of time talking about

    this very question last weekend. And it’s really tough

    to point out any one particular thing. I think it takes

    a team awhile to gel, and people to find their roles.

    And I think we played our best when individuals weren’t

    concerned about stats and individual play. And I think

    we started playing more as a team, and I think over two

    years, we kind of settled into our roles, and got more

    comfortable with them.

    Whether it was off the bench or

    starting, or being a shooter or rebounder, we kind of

    let some of that individualism go.

    I will say that I think the big

    games where we had the big TV coverage, why did we lose?

    Well, I think people had the tendency to look at those

    individual stats again, and I think that hurt us. That’s

    just my guess, and nobody can put a finger on it, but

    it’s probably more that we played at our best level when

    everybody was playing as a team.

    HHC: How tough was it

    losing in that first round game to Xavier, especially

    after you were a three seed?

    KL: Aw man. (Pauses)

    I’ve spent the last fifteen years not talking about that

    (Laughs). You can just tell the emotion in peoples face

    when that topic comes up. Usually, when I’m in a

    conversation with somebody, like on an airplane, and

    that question comes up, that’s usually a time I get up

    and walk away (Laughs).

    Obviously, some people took it (the

    loss) harder than others, but it was something that was

    a hard way to end the season.

    HHC: Do you think it

    was just Xavier playing over their heads that night?

    KL: I think it was

    all the hype of the NCAA tournament, and the TV

    coverage, and the Metrodome. We were on the court with

    Duke, who eventually won it, and rubbing elbows with

    Shaquille O’Neill during warm-ups. And I think people

    got immersed in it all and kind of lost the team focus.

    HHC: Time for happy thoughts. What are

    your favorite memories of Lincoln, both on and off the


    KL: I had a chance this past weekend to

    remember a lot of good memories. On the court, there are

    a lot of last second shots and real gut check efforts to

    make things happen that other people have talked about.

    Off the court, making a lot of good

    friends. I’ve moved around a little bit since Lincoln,

    and the quality of people you meet in Lincoln are great.

    They are real friendly and down to earth people, and we

    had a good time there.

    HHC: And before we

    get to today, can you tell us a classic and colorful

    Danny Nee story or two so we can add it to our ongoing


    KL: (Laughs) I’ve read through some of

    those Danny Nee stories on your site, and like I said, I

    have the utmost respect for him, so I don’t really have

    anything incredibly funny to explain.

    I was going to find out if he was

    left handed or right handed, because that’s one thing I

    do remember. He used to write with one hand, but when he

    shifted the marker to the other hand, you better learn

    to how duck (Laughs).

    HHC: (Laughs)

    KL: He was a great

    coach, and we had a lot of good success. We were

    opposites, but the results at the end of the year spoke

    for themselves.

    HHC: After 1990-1991, you still had one

    remaining year of eligibility, and transferred to the

    University of Denver. Talk about that.

    KL: Well, I had that

    year left, and was one credit shy of graduation from

    Nebraska, and went to the University of Denver. It was a

    town I’d always wanted to live in, and it had a very

    reputable MBA program, which I finished in a year. And,

    I got a chance to play again for the Denver Pioneers. We

    had another 26-win season there, just like in 1990-1991,

    and we were one game away from the Final 4 in Division 2


    And this last weekend, I made a

    comment to the guys after I found out that I’m still

    holding records for shot blocks and stuff at DU. And I

    was recognized as the MVP of the season, and it was a

    good opportunity to get a lot of playing time. But I

    made a comment that it was a tribute to the talent of

    that 1990-1991 team, and amazing that you could take the

    least important player from that (1990-1991) team, and

    he was an MVP at a Division 2 program. That was a

    testament to that team at Nebraska, as any of those guys

    could have been starting, if not MVP’s somewhere else.

    HHC: Like JF Hoffman,

    who we hope to interview in the near future! Hey, update

    us on what Kelly Lively been up to since 1992, and what

    is he doing today?

    KL: Well, kind of a funny story about

    1992. When I was working out at DU, I happened to be at

    the right place at the right time. The Nuggets were also

    working out there (at DU), and I got a chance to hang

    out with some of the coaches and players. And what

    Denver did that year, was they let a lot of their big

    men go because they’d drafted Dikembe Mutumbo. And they

    had absolutely no big men in their camp because of his


    So, I got this call and got invited

    to their camp, and it was a really fun opportunity to

    work out in the Nuggets camp. I was telling Eric (Piatkowski)

    that his NBA career lasted 12 years, and mine lasted 12

    days (Laughs). But yeah, Dikembe was holding out for

    more money and was missing camp, and was catching a lot

    of flack from the fans and press. But I’ll tell you

    what, the day he came back, he sure proved a couple of

    things. He proved to his critics that he was going to be

    a future NBA All-Star, first off. And, he proved that I

    had no business playing in the NBA; he wiped the floor

    with me.

    Since then, I got married in 1994

    to a girl that I dated in Nebraska, and she went to

    Nebraska Wesleyan, Michelle. I have a great marriage of

    over ten years with her. And I think about 1997 or so,

    we moved to New Orleans for a year. At the time, I did

    not want to go and leave the Midwest, but after spending

    a year there, I didn’t want to leave. It was a real

    different experience and a real fun one to be down


    And then probably around 1998, we

    moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and started working

    there, and have been here about ten years. I am

    currently an IT Manager for an International Company

    that’s based in Chicago. I help administer the network

    and applications for their operations in the western

    United States.

    Oh, and I’ve got to mention my two

    daughters, or I’ll catch a lot of hell for that

    (Laughs). Megan is 4, and Ashlyn is 2. They’re future

    Cornhusker volleyball players I believe, because my wife

    played volleyball in college, and I play on a club

    volleyball team here. I realize I can play volleyball a

    lot longer than I play basketball, so we do a little

    touring around playing in some volleyball tournaments

    here and there.

    HHC: Do you still


    KL: I do still play

    some basketball in the city league.

    That’s another funny story about

    Danny. Last year, Duquesne was in town for a

    Christmas/New Years Tournament here in Albuquerque,

    hosted by the New Mexico Lobos. And I was listening on

    the radio to the pregame, and I thought to myself that I

    should stop by and see him. And then I thought, “man,

    that’s a big step down from the heydays at Nebraska”

    So I wait a couple of seconds,

    realize the negative thoughts I’m thinking, and realize

    that I myself was going to play city league ball, so I

    had no room to talk (Laughs).

    HHC: Have you talked

    to Danny since 1991?

    KL: No. I ended up not going to see him

    that night either since I had that game. I play with a

    bunch of guys from work, and if nobody gets hurt, it’s a

    good night.

    HHC: (Laughs) Nice. Hey, are you cool with

    taking some reader e-mails if we set you up an account


    [email protected] ?

    KL: Sure, that’d be


    HHC: Awesome. Thanks a lot for joining us.

    Anything you’d like to add?

    KL: Well, I Just want to thank you guys at

    Husker Hoops Central for putting on the party at P.O.

    Pears last weekend. I think everybody got his or her

    money’s worth. I know P.O. Pears probably had a good bar

    tab going (Laughs).

    But yeah, we had a good opportunity

    to swap some stories and talk to both some fans and you

    guys with the site, and it was a great time.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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