MISSOULA, MONTANA — When compared to most NCAA Division I athletes, Kelby Kramer’s journey into the college basketball world didn’t come easy. Kramer’s roster spot with the University of Montana was one that came unexpected, but earned.
Kramer, who still has three years with the Grizzlies, grew up in a basketball family. Both parents played college basketball. His father played at Montana Tech while his mother competed at Rocky Mountain College. The sport has always been a part of his life. Blessed with height and a work ethic to better himself, Kramer’s story is about learning, overcoming adversity and becoming.
Growth, Progression and Becoming
At the beginning of his freshmen year at Rock Springs High School, Kramer did not look to have a promising career in basketball. Kramer would be the first to admit that he was slow, uncoordinated and had a low basketball IQ. However, a series of fortunate events took place which boosted his desire to continue playing basketball. Due to the tall genes gifted to him from his parents, a five-inch growth spurt hit before his sophomore season, giving him a six-foot-six-inch frame. In addition, a young, struggling varsity team allowed Kramer a few minutes on the varsity squad throughout his sophomore season.
“That summer I really started to put more of a focus on basketball,” Kramer said. “I wanted to be one of the better players in the state and I knew I would keep growing—both literally and as a basketball player! I put in a lot of work in the offseason and gained around 25 pounds and was around six-foot-nine-inches my junior season.”
Physically Kramer was set to dominate the rim and defend the paint going into his junior year. But once again he faced obstacles that kept him from blossoming into the player he had hoped to be.
“I was still uncoordinated and somewhat unathletic, while I also hadn’t quite adjusted to the speed of the game. I ended up starting only about half the games that year and averaged six points and four or so rebounds,” Kramer said.
His final summer as a Tiger found him the development and success he had dreamed of as a young man. During the offseason he played in a total of 80 games. From AAU basketball to traveling tournaments, Kramer found confidence in his game and developed the needed skills to take over the state his senior year.
During his senior year, he helped lead Rock Springs to the 4A state championship game. He led 4A in rebounds and ultimately was named to the USA Today Wyoming first team along with honors to the Wyoming All-Star team for the Wyoming-Montana All-Star series.
The college recruitment process for Kramer was quick and sudden in comparison to other college prospects. Kramer had zero exposure to college recruits until his senior year. The two AAU tournaments he played in during the summer caught the eye of Montana and Idaho State. Both schools approached and offered him scholarships to play at the next level.
Kramer elected to go with Montana where he has found more growth and learned many important lessons as a student-athlete. The last two seasons, Montana has won the Big Sky Conference which has sent the Grizzlies to the NCAA Tournament both years. In addition, Montana has won the most games in any two year stretch in the program’s history with 52 wins. As for Kramer, his time at Montana has earned him Academic All-Conference.
Aside from awards and team achievements, Kramer has put on another 30 pounds and added seven inches to his vertical.
“It‘s been fun to see my improvement in the weight room and see those improvements pay off for me on the court,” Kramer said.
For Kramer, stepping out of his comfort zone and challenging himself in all aspects of life has been one of the most rewarding opportunities he has received.
“Being able to manage myself socially, academically, and athletically at a high level where I can perform and represent what I stand for has always been a big challenge and it’s definitely been a journey where I have to step outside what I think I’m capable of,” Kramer said. “Overall, it’s a great opportunity to continue growing. That’s what college is for.”
Onward and Upward
Kramer has plenty of time left at Montana, but while he continues to develop and craft his skills at the collegiate level, he does so with a few goals in mind: graduate with his degree and make the conference All-Academic team the next three years.
Academics will remain a constant over his time at Montana but the goals on the court will also be a major focus.
“On the court, I’m not a big fan of individual accolades,” Kramer said. “Whatever ends up coming my way in that regard, I’ll enjoy it and cherish it, however, at the end of the day winning games and championships is what’s most important to me.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Not many people from Rock Springs get to go to college for a sport to get their education paid for, so no matter how stressful my situation seems at times, it’s really just a petty first world problem when you look at all the other struggles some people have to go through.”