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Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School

Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School
the Beat

Bires: Kellem emerges as Leopards' silent star

| Sports

Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 11:15 pm | Updated: 6:15 pm, Thu Mar 15, 2012.

Bires: Kellem emerges as Leopards' silent star

Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com Timesonline.com

Antonio Kellem may still be a baby-faced freshman who's only 15 years old. But at Lincoln Park, he's known as the "Silent Assassin."

He's a rare breed on the Pennsylvania high school basketball scene. Not many ninth-graders are capable of playing point guard at such a high level for a team with legitimate state championship aspirations.

But this season for the Leopards, Kellem fills the bill.

He's stands close to 6-foot-1. He has huge hands and huge feet (size 14). And he plays with a court awareness that's uncommon for a kid so young.

"Antonio may look meek and mild with that smile on his face," said Mike Bariski, the athletic director and assistant coach at Lincoln Park. "But he'll put a dagger in your heart in a second."

Tonight when Lincoln Park (24-4) continues its quest toward a second straight appearance in the PIAA final, Kellem and his teammates will try to put a dagger in the heart of West Middlesex.

The Big Reds (22-4), the District 10 champs, will probably go as far as their big lead guard leads them. That would be Matt Dogan, a 6-4 junior who scores around 23 points per game.

But it won't necessarily be Kellem guarding Dogan in man-to-man situations in tonight's Class A quarterfinal at Slippery Rock. It could be assignment-by-committee with Kellem, 6-5 sophomore swingman Ryan Skovranko and 6-0 super-sub forward B.J. Lipke taking turns on Dogan.

By no means is that a knock on Kellem's defensive abilities. He's just as promising on the defensive end as he is on offense.

Kellem showed up at Lincoln Park last summer after he and his family decided to transfer from the Freedom Area School District. He arrived with the reputation as a scoring machine who averaged more than 20 points per game on the Bulldogs' eighth-grade team.

He wasn't part of Lincoln Park's team in a spring league in McKees Rocks. But he did play for the Leopards in a summer league at Ambridge. Even though he split time between shooting guard and point guard, it was obvious the new kid could play.

According to Bariski, Kellem was Lincoln Park's most consistent player during the summer. That's quite a compliment considering who Kellem played with. There was 6-foot-10 senior center Devonate Watson, senior shooting guard Trey Hosack and Skovranko. There were also two other talented guards: Ricky Rodgers, who was planning to transfer in from Keystone Oaks, and Maverick Rowan, who, if you believe the rumor mill, will play for Lincoln Park next year as a freshman.

Then once high school season started in December, it took Kellem only two games before he moved into the starting lineup.

With offensive threats like Hosack, Watson and Skovranko needing their share of touches, Kellem doesn't get to shoot the ball that often. He's fourth on the team in scoring at 9 points per game.

He has no problem with that.

"We each have our roles, and I understand my role," he said. "My main role is to run the point and run the plays that are called. I'm not worried about how many points I score. We have other guys who can score."

In time, though, Kellem figures to be more of an offensive threat. As he continues to develop his all-around game, he will get more and more chances to shoot.

In time, he's going to be a star at Lincoln Park.