LAHAINA - Simply put, Ryan Kelly is the best of the best.
Kelly had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Duke on Wednesday in a 68-61 win over Kansas in the title game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center, a performance that capped off another flawless tournament for the Blue Devils, ranked sixth by The Associated Press, and earned the junior forward the MVP award.
Kelly scored 17 points in each game as Duke improved to 15-0 on the Valley Isle.
Tournament MVP Ryan Kelly celebrates with his Duke teammates after scoring 17 points for a third straight game.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"I really think Ryan's going to be one of the best players when he finishes up. He's going to be a pro," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils' Austin Rivers joined Kelly on the all-tournament team, as did Georgetown's Jason Clark, the tournament's leading total scorer with 69 points, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kansas' Thomas Robinson.
Blue Devils sophomore guard Tyler Thornton said of Kelly: "He's a very smart player. He does the little things. At the end of the game, that's what's most important, especially with the games that are really tight. You can always count on him."
Maui Invitational MVP Winners
2011-Ryan Kelly, Duke
2010-Kemba Walker, Connecticut
2009-Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga
2008-Ty Lawson, North Carolina
2007-Kyle Singler, Duke
2006-Darren Collison, UCLA
2005-Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
2004-Raymond Felton, North Carolina
2003-Keith Waleskowski, Dayton
2002-Bracey Wright, Indiana
2001-Mike Dunleavy, Duke
2000-Michael Wright, Arizona
1999-Joseph Forte, North Carolina
1998-Jason Hart, Syracuse
1997-Steve Wojciechowski, Duke
1996-Raef LaFrentz, Kansas
1995-Kerry Kittles, Villanova
1994-Mario Bennett, Arizona St.
1993-Travis Ford, Kentucky
1992-Bobby Hurley, Duke; Anfernee Hardaway, Memphis St.
1991-George Gilmore, Chaminade
1990-Billy Owens, Syracuse
1989-Doug Smith, Missouri
1988-Glenn Rice, Michigan
1986-Will Perdue, Vanderbilt
1985-Dell Curry, Virginia Tech
1984-Patrick Langlois, Chaminade
Kelly also had 14 rebounds and six assists in the tournament - three of each in the win over the 14th-ranked Jayhawks.
"He's so calm under pressure," said teammate Mason Plumlee. "You'll notice at the end of games a lot of times they just pop him up to the top because a lot of guys can't stay in front of him. He's one of our best free-throw shooters. So having a guy like that that's dependable and you know what you're going to get every day - he was consistent all three days That does give you confidence. I know I love playing with him."
Former NBA player Will Perdue, who was with Vanderbilt and earned the MVP award when the Commodores won the Maui Invitational in 1986, said the honor raised his own career "to the next level."
"For me personally, that was the first big accomplishment," said Perdue, who was on Maui for ESPN Radio. "What had happened at that time, it kind of skyrocketed my career from there."
Perdue added that winning tournament MVP is more than just an individual honor.
"There's a lot of people who claim this might have been the best field they ever had so when you win the MVP award it requires a lot of effort, not only from that individual, but from his team."
Krzyzewski echoed those thoughts, adding that while Kelly earned the award, the entire Duke team deserves praise.
"Any of the guys that start for us, because we're balanced, could have been (MVP)," Krzyzewski said.
"If we didn't win, he wouldn't be MVP. So that's the kind of balance we have on our team, and he knows that, and these guys know it too. But they're happy for him, they're really happy for him."
* Lehia Apana is at firstname.lastname@example.org