Feature Teacher: Mrs. Kelly

Former Claysburg-Kimmel basketball star scored 1,000 points without a left hand

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Courtesy photo

Mrs. Kelly, formally Ms. Johnson, was recognized in high school by Sports Illustrated for her outstanding basketball achievements.

Ethan McGee, Staff Writer

Bellwood-Antis High School math teacher Mrs. Allison Stinson said when she played against Erin Kelly on the basketball court more than 15 years ago, she never viewed her as someone who had a disability.

Considering the way Mrs. Kelly impacted every game she played, that’s seems about right.

A Myers Elementary teacher, Mrs. Kelly was an outstanding women’s basketball player  from Claysburg-Kimmel High School, where she played on the varsity team from 1995-1999.

Not only was she a 1,000-point scorer, but she was also a player that teams feared and prepared for.

However, Mrs. Kelly was uniquely different than every other player she had to compete against because she was born with only one arm.

However, in spite of what seemed like a disability, she had a record-setting career that got her recognized nationwide by some big media outlets, including Sports Illustrated. In four years, she made 194 three-pointers.

Surprisingly, basketball was one thing that came easy to her.

“It was harder for me to do things like cut my food with a knife than work on basketball,” said Mrs. Kelly.

It would be easy to think someone with a disadvantage like Mrs. Kelly was easily targeted.  But actually Ms. Kelly was rarely matched up on someone who tried to take advantage of her being one handed.

It was harder for me to do things like cut my food with a knife than work on basketball.”

— Mrs. Kelly

“There was almost no one who tried to challenge my off hand. The only girl who played me to the side of my missing arm was from Bellwood actually,” said Mrs. Kelly

“I know many teams tried to take away her right hand and force her to go left, but she always found a way to get around them.  She was a tremendous ball handler and a fantastic shooter.   She was hard to defend,” recalled Mrs. Stinson, who is still the all-time leading scorer at ICC rival Moshannon Valley. Mrs. Stinson played with, against, and coached with Mrs. Kelly.

“We actually played AAU basketball together starting in eighth grade and we were instant friends.  She was an amazing teammate and a player whom I had great respect for on and off the court,” said Mrs. Stinson.

Mrs. Stinson said she loved playing along side Mrs. Kelly, and respected her game.

“She probably caught passes better than many others that I played with.  She never, ever used her arm as an excuse,” said Mrs. Stinson.  “I remember having a conversation with her one day about her arm, and she told me that for as long as she could remember, her mom and dad told her that she could do anything that she wanted to and she embraced that.  She told me she could do everything that I could except cut up a steak.”

Besides competing against each other, coaching brought them even closer as great friends.

“When I was named the varsity coach, I immediately called her to be the junior high coach. I knew that she would be a fantastic role model to those girls as she had been to so many others,” said Mrs. Stinson. “I knew she would teach them more than just basketball.  She always inspired me and I knew she would inspire them too.  There is no question that she did that as the coach.”

 Now a successful teacher at Myers, Mrs. Kelly explains to kids in her third grade class every year that she might be slightly different than the rest of their teachers.

“On the first day I start out by reading a book about a kid who loses a limb. After I read it I ask my class what’s different about me that they notice, and by the end of the week they don’t even notice anymore,” Mrs. Kelly said.

Some younger kids sometimes have a tougher time understanding, but that comes with their young age, Mrs. Kelly said.

A one-time member of the Penn Sate Altoona women’s basketball team, Mrs. Kelly has a family of her own now. This leaves a big question: will the retired basketball star lead her kids down the same path of athletic success?

“My husband and I have discussed it, and we feel that we will let them decide what they want to do.  We want them to enjoy what they are doing and have fun.  We don’t want to be overbearing  about a particular sport. If they enjoy it then we’re happy,” Mrs. Kelly said.