Greg Kelser, better known by some basketball fans as “Special K,” grew up in a military family. They moved around a lot before landing in Detroit where Greg attended Henry Ford High School in 1975. Upon graduating he headed for East Lansing to become a Spartan. In his senior year, he and teammate Earvin "Magic" Johnson led MSU to the 1979 NCAA tournament championship, the first in the school's history. In another school first that year, Greg Kelser was named both All-America 1st Team and Academic All-America 1st Team.
Having been drafted by the Pistons in 1979, he played six seasons in the NBA before becoming a sports commentator. As an analyst Greg has covered over 2,300 basketball games for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, NCAA, WNBA, and the NBA. Greg has served as a television broadcaster for the Detroit Pistons since 1988 and the Big Ten Conference since 1987. He is also a passionate motivational speaker and has authored a book on his collegiate experience aptly named Gregory Kelser’s Tales from Michigan State Basketball.
BMN: How do you think your MSU experience helped shape the person you are today?
GREG: I believe that that 4-year experience, of course along with so many other things had a tremendous impact on the way I act and react. You learn so much during that time. Being a young man and then becoming an adult, you learn how to make decisions and how to respond. I am very thankful for having had the college experience, and even more so for having had it at Michigan State.
BMN: What is your favorite memory from your days playing basketball as a Spartan?
GREG: Well I think it’s two things, probably when I first realized that we were going to be a team that had an opportunity to win, and not just win, but win at the highest level. Then it’s having that vision come to fruition, when we won the NCAA Championship in ’79. I’d say it’s those two things combined.
BMN: Both Michigan State and Michigan have had great seasons this year. What stands out for you about the Wolverines this season?
GREG: Probably their journey. I know that the program had been struggling for a number of years, and they have been able to come back, to the point where they were even able to claim a number one ranking for a moment this year. It takes a while to rebuild a program, but by bringing in Coach Beilein they have been slowly doing it. I think that they are an exciting team to watch. Trey Burke is one of the most explosive players in the nation.
BMN: What do you think makes this year’s Spartan squad special?
GREG: Michigan State just continues to be an elite program. They made sixteen consecutive NCAA appearances, and of course won the championship in 2000. They are an excellent team and are not just playing in the tournament, but have a legitimate chance to go to the Final Four. Obviously we don’t know if that will happen yet, but they have the ability. Coach Izzo, is undoubtedly a future Hall-of-Famer, and he has put together an incredible program.
BMN: When you were at State you exceled both in athletics and academics. What advice do you have for kids who are trying to balance learning and sports, or other extracurricular activities?
GREG: The first thing I think you have to do is to make it a priority and set your goals. I was not the smartest, but I knew it was important, so I had goals and I worked toward them. I tell kids all the time, to become a great student you don’t have to be the smartest kid in the class you just have to put in the time and work hard.
BMN: What advice do you have for youngsters hoping to get an athletic scholarship?
GREG: If you’re trying to get an athletic scholarship first of all make sure your academic responsibilities are taken care of. Your grades have to be there. Look at your sport as a job. I say that because if it’s something you really want to achieve then you have to look at all aspects of what it will take to get there. Exposure’s a big thing too. You have to make sure that you put together stats and information that will get the desired response. Hopefully the people at your school, your coaches, and even your teachers will get involved.
BMN: What do the Pistons need to do to win another championship?
GREG: It’s not a great secret what they need to do to win a championship. They’ve got to put together a collection of solid basketball players who can play well together. Establish chemistry and trust. It’s the same recipe they had in ’04 and in the late 80s and early 90s. They had superior athletes and that comes with time. I think they’re making strides in that direction. They’ve got some young players right now that I feel very confident in time will blossom into a consistent playoff-contending group, and as they continue to add a few more pieces of the puzzle maybe eventually a championship-contending group.
BMN: What are some of your favorite places to visit around the state?
GREG: I still very very much enjoy being on the campus at Michigan State. I have two nieces in college right there now so I get that opportunity a little more now than in the past. I go to Spartan basketball games and football games when I get the opportunity. You know what, I also love to golf now and Michigan has some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. I’ve golfed lots of places around the country with my travels, and I love golfing beautiful golf courses, I truly do. I’ve spent time in Traverse City and Mackinac, in fact I’m going to Mackinac for a speaking engagement later this year. Those are some of the places I really enjoy going to in Michigan.
BMN: What are your thoughts on the Buy Michigan Now campaign and of supporting the local community?
GREG: I think it’s incredibly important, because Michigan gets an unfair bad rap. I’m not saying that some of the stuff that we hear, some of the stuff that’s reported shouldn’t be, because you have to bring awareness so we can correct it, but Michigan has so many positives to offer. The number one asset is its people--a resilient group that has dealt with adversity and hard times before, but always with determination. I think especially at these times whenever we can support homegrown it’s very important to do, but also to point out in the midst of these tribulations it is still a very very nice place.
BMN: What Shout Out do you have for your friends and fans in Michigan?
GREG: Michigan has always been a prideful place, a wonderful place to live and visit, and it’s only going to get better in time.