Two of the top basketball players in Northern Kentucky history share a last name, but unfortunately, they’ve had a lot more in common than that.
On a shot in late February, Kelly Niece, a senior at Simon Kenton High School, reached a major milestone in his basketball career.
“I’m proud of it, but winning is more important,” said Kelly.
Very few players in Northern Kentucky have ever scored more points than Kelly, but he is still second in his family, when it comes to career scoring.
In 2016, Kelly’s older sister, Ally Niece made a game-winning shot on the same night that she eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for her career.
“Having your sister play and be the big star – it was really cool to look up to her and see what she could do here,” said Kelly.
Neither sibling’s path to success was easy, though. Kelly remembers the day his sister was injured, and he was watching from the bleachers.
“It was in a scrimmage in the summer. [She was] down on the block,” recalled Kelly.
“My left leg went backwards and popped out of place, then back into place,” explained Ally. “I remember thinking in my mind, ‘There’s no way I tore my ACL.’”
Ally didn’t just tear her ACL; She also tore her MCL and meniscus.
“You get a sickening feeling when you evaluate an injury like that and you know what it could mean for that athlete,” said Nick Repka, with NovaCare Rehabilitation.
Repka helped Ally with her recovery.
“Rehab was more mentally hard, than physically,” said Ally Niece.
Remarkably, Ally was able to make it back on the court by the end of her senior season.
Now, she plays basketball at Northern Kentucky University.
Unfortunately, that was not the last time Nick Repka would see a Niece sibling walk into his office.
“My first thought was, ‘Not again,’” said Repka.
“I’ll never forget that at all. I could tell when I did it that something really bad happened,” said Kelly Niece.
In the offseason before his junior year, Kelly tore his ACL during a basketball game.
“Seeing her go through that recovery before helped me. Seeing her go through that, and then me go through that – she led the path for me to [make it through recovery],” said Kelly.
“He’s competitive,” said Ally. “He would be like, ‘If Ally can do it, I can do it.’”
Kelly did make a recovery, which brings the story back to his milestone shot.
Not even two years after his injury, Kelly broke the all-time scoring record for Simon Kenton boys basketball. Just weeks later, he also broke the single-game record, with 47 points in one game.
“I’ve had some [athletes] that have worked as hard, but none have worked harder than those two [siblings] to get back and compete at a high level,” said Repka.
Two siblings each had very similar, devastating injuries.
“It taught me to not take anything for granted,” said Kelly.
Through adversity, though, they gained perspective.
“I want things to stack up for him so he can finally be like, ‘Okay that was worth it.’ [Kelly] has been through a lot,” said Ally.
Kelly and the Simon Kenton basketball team will play in the 8th Region semifinals on Friday night.