MANHATTAN, KS. (KSNT)- Curtis Kelly has called himself a Wildcat for quite some time now.

The Bronx, New York native, Kelly transferred to K-State from UConn in 2008. He spent three seasons with the Wildcats as a player, tallying up 52 wins and a pair of NCAA tournament wins.

Then, Kelly played eight seasons professionally overseas, in six different countries.

In August of 2021 he made his return to Manhattan, Kansas as a graduate assistant. After one year on Bruce Weber’s staff, Kelly was retained by the new coaching staff with Jerome Tang, remaining in a graduate assistant role.

He went on K-State’s annual Catbacker Tour as a player. Now, he’s back on the tour in a different role.

“It’s definitely full circle,” Kelly said. “When I was an undergrad I was a knucklehead. I probably didn’t embrace the Catbacker tour as much as I do now. But as I’m older and have some great experiences in life period I realize how much this experience is meaningful to me and meaningful to what I love to do, which is now coaching.”

He says the tour is a great way to connect with fans. However, he doesn’t call them fans.

“I call them friends and family,” Kelly said with a smile. “Just to connect with them, share some moments, share some experience… give them updates on how I’m doing, talk about the team and the guys… it’s a phenomenal experience.”

Kelly is working with his third different K-State head men’s basketball coach. He played for Frank Martin and now has one year each with Weber and Tang. He says those coaches have taught him a lot.

Specifically, Kelly tells 27 News it’s Tang’s impact beyond basketball that impresses him as much as anything.

“Coach Tang is a phenomenal coach but he’s an even better human being,” Kelly said “He’s an even better leader. The things he do off the court is way more remarkable than the things he do on the court. The way develops his kids and his guys, it’s a testament to the man he is and the person that he is for real. He’s phenomenal.”

Kelly says he’s also excited to have Nate Awbrey following in his footsteps of transitioning from K-State player to graduate assistant. 27 News was the first to report the Awbrey’s decision to stay with K-State in that new role. Read that article here.