UPike BASKETBALL | Coach Kelly Wells And His Daily Battle For His Health

12/06/2017 07:28 PM

Kelly Wells is in his 12th season as the Head Coach of the University of Pikeville Men’s Basketball Team. He has had ten 20-win seasons in the last 11 years, including a 28-8 run last season where they advanced to the quarter-finals in the NAIA tournament.

“Sometimes you pick your team up and sometimes your team picks you up and I rely on them sometimes to have to pick me up a little bit,” Wells explained.

For Wells, basketball has meant everything to him in his life.

“Basketball has really provided every opportunity and everything that I stand for throughout my life. You know, I became a Christian because of basketball, I met my wife through basketball- she played at Morehead State when I was playing. You know, my kids are a by-product of us meeting and basketball is- some of my earthly goals have been achieved through basketball,” Wells told Spectrum News. “It paid for my education and paid for my wife’s education. My dad was the [basketball] coach at Morehead State University, I grew up learning to play basketball at the college level, so it really encompasses a lot, but I also don’t want to be remembered as just ‘Kelly Wells the basketball coach’. I’d be kind of disappointed if my kids said ‘my dad is just a basketball coach.‘”

Wells is much more than a basketball coach, and he’s a good one at that. He is a State Champion, a National Champion, a husband, a father— and he’s a fighter.

“For me, when I first started coaching, winning was what I thought about. You know, I got up in the morning, I went to bed at night, I stayed up at night, I worked the clock to every hour I could work it and I don’t do that now,” Wells explained. “You know, I know the impact I have on these guys has to be more than basketball and it better be more than basketball and we try to make them good young men and grow and stretch their ability and be better husbands and great fathers; and hopefully they never have to encounter the struggles I have, but they also see that they can if that needs to be the case.”

His struggle began with a routine athletic physical when he was a student-athlete at Morehead State.

“We go through those random physicals and my urine came back very suspect and they took me in and it wasn’t weeks later I had to have a biopsy to kind of officially determine my disease,” Wells said.

The diagnosis? Berger’s Disease. A protein deficiency that leads to kidney failure. 14 years ago he had his first kidney transplant. His wife was the donor.

“That first one lasted for ten years and my disease is very aggressive and it came back,” Wells explained.

The game plan to lift isn’t as simple as drawing up a good play. He had a bout with kidney cancer and in what might have been the greatest assist he’s received in his life, his brother-in-law donated the kidney for his second transplant.

As a result from the constant medications, he has lost bone density and even had to have a hip replacement because of it, but that hasn’t changed Wells’ love for life.

“My ‘why’ changed drastically when I got sick and had my first transplant and I was going to enjoy winning, I was going to enjoy losing. I was going to enjoy every piece, because you just don’t know and you’re not guaranteed the next moment,” Wells said.

He’s doing good as of now, but Wells has to have monthly blood work and see his transplant coordinator several times a year. He knows another transplant may very well be in his future, but right now his eighth-ranked Bears are keeping him busy, just the way he likes it.

“Honestly, I don’t know how I would manage it without basketball, to be frank,” Wells said. “If all I had to think about was the potential of things that could go wrong with my health, there’s no future in that for me. I have to stay active. I’m just an active personality.”

Wells and the Bears are off to a 12-0 start for the season. They host Toccoa Falls on Dec. 18 at 6:00 p.m. EST.

Watch the full story below:

Wells and his wife have their own foundation, called “Wells Tough”. The best way you can help, is through education, donation and signing up to be an organ donor. For more information, you can learn more about the Kentucky Organ Donors Affiliates (KODA) and Donate Life by visiting their page here .

Lyndsey Gough

Lyndsey is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News. You can catch Lyndsey’s work on Sports Night, the only nightly show dedicated to covering everything from high school to college sports in Kentucky. She loves covering all sports but it’s the personal stories that really stand out to Lyndsey, like the story of a community coming together to remember high school track start Trinity Gay who was killed. Lyndsey came to Spectrum News from WBKO in Bowling Green where she was an Anchor, Reporter and Producer covering news and sports. She’s a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of UK. Sports Night airs at 6:30 and 10:30 weeknights on Spectrum News. If you have a story idea for Lyndsey email her at Lyndsey.gough@charter.com.

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