IOWA CITY, Iowa—Sophomore point guard Jake Kelly is officially leaving Iowa, his father, Bob, told The Gazette Thursday night.
Bob Kelly said his son has asked for his release to play college basketball at a school near his family in Terre Haute, Ind. Bob Kelly said Jake prefers to play at Indiana State, a school the family used to buy season tickets to in the past.
“I don’t know if he’s gotten it (his release) yet,” Bob Kelly said. “I don’t know how that works. He’s expecting to get it.”
Kelly announced his intentions to transfer on his Facebook page at 7:11 p.m., writing, “It really means a lot to me that all the Hawkeye fans are being understanding. I won’t forget how passionate the fans are here and I will always be proud to have worn the Iowa uniform.”
His status update was met mostly with comforting notes from friends and fans.
Kelly led Iowa in scoring last season with 11.6 points a game. He averaged 20 points a game for Iowa’s last seven regular-season games. Twice he was named Big Ten Player of the Week and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection.
Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe neither confirmed nor denied information about Kelly’s release.
“I’m not aware of that,” Roe said, “and Todd (Lickliter, Iowa’s coach) has not addressed it. I have not been told about it.”
Kelly is the second Iowa men’s basketball player to leave the program in as many days. Wednesday, guard Jermain Davis announced he was transferring to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Two other players—sophomore guard Jeff Peterson and junior forward David Palmer—are rumored to be considering leaving the program.
Bob Kelly said his son wants to play at Indiana State but has not spoken with anyone connected to the team about a possible roster spot. Bob Kelly added that Jake plans to apply for a hardship through the NCAA to play right away. NCAA rules force transfers between Division I institutions to sit out one season except in special circumstances. There is a precedent of that with players leaving Iowa.
Former Iowa player Tyler Smith transferred from Iowa less than two weeks after Lickliter took over as coach in 2007. Smith left for Tennessee to be closer to his father, who was dying of cancer. The NCAA granted Smith immediate eligibility.
Bob Kelly said Jake has had a difficult time emotionally since his mother died in a plane crash last summer. Bob Kelly said Jake loved Iowa and Iowa City, liked Lickliter and his teammates. But Jake struggled juggling school and basketball as well as his emotions.
“The true reason is he wants to be closer to his family after the tragedy,” Bob Kelly said. “It’s been a very tough year for him. He persevered. He’s a tough kid, but he’s not that tough. He needs his family right now.”
Jake Kelly told reporters March 9 he planned to continue his career at Iowa beyond the upcoming season. Bob Kelly said Jake wasn’t lying at the time and hadn’t made his final decision until last week.
“Well, to be honest, he didn’t make a decision until he was home for spring break. It’s been on his mind all year, let that be known. In the past, he’s gone back and forth because the success he had at the end of the year made him think that he needs to stay.”
Bob Kelly said Jake struggled with the losses and took them all personally. But Bob Kelly reiterated that neither the losses nor coach Lickliter had any part in Jake leaving Iowa.
It’s undetermined if Indiana State will sign Kelly once he leaves Iowa.
“He does want to continue to play college basketball and he does have the idea that he might go to Indiana State. But he doesn’t know if they have a spot for him. When he gets his release, he’s going to contact their coach with the intent to see if a spot is available.
“If not, he may decide to sit out a year and try to get his mind together. He definitely wants to make a career out of basketball.”