LOUDONVILLE — When Jordan Kellier stepped off the plane in Jamaica in May, it had been seven long, winding years since the Siena men’s basketball forward had last set foot on home soil.
His first stop?
“I got my KFC,” Kellier said Thursday. “KFC in Jamaica is like Chick-Fil-A here in America. It’s really good there. I got KFC, some jerk chicken, some real coconut water.”
After satisfying that craving, Kellier fulfilled the real purpose of the trip — a long-overdue reunion with his family.
That moment for the Portmore, Jamaica native was captured in a video that was posted to the Siena men’s basketball socia media accounts. Kellier knocked on the door of his family home and, in an attempt to extend the surprise, tried to disguise his voice.
It worked — mostly.
While several of his family members were initially confused as to who was calling at their door, one voice quickly piped up who knew exactly who was knocking.
“It was my little sister,” said Kellier, who has five siblings. “She probably recognized my voice. I tried to change my voice, and, obviously, it didn’t work. She was like, ‘Wait, Jordan?’ and my mom was like, ‘No.’ Then, I guessed they looked through the window, something like that, and they were like, ‘Oh, wait, it’s Jordan.’”
Then, the door swung open, and emotions swelled as Kellier’s long odyssey finally brought him back to his family.
“It was a blessed situation,” said Kellier, who is now back on Siena’s campus and participating in the Saints’ summer workouts. “Being able to see my family — my mom, my dad, my sisters — and being in that culture again, experiencing that family love. . . . The seven years kind of take a toll on your mind. Being around them again was just a blessing, and I embraced it.
“Before I left, I gave them a lot of trouble, lot of problems. Being back and just being able to touch them, being around them, was just a blessing.”
Kellier hadn’t been back to Jamaica since 2015, when, as a high schooler, he enrolled at Redemption Christian Academy in Troy.
From Redemption Christian, Kellier then headed to junior college at Williston State College in North Dakota, where he averaged 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman in 2019-20. That earned him a Division I shot at the University of Utah, where he played in seven games during the 2020-21 season.
Then, in May 2021, the 6-foot-6 forward headed back to the Capital Region when he transferred to Siena, where he avearged 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 22 appearances for the Saints last season.
After all that, Kellier finally got a month to reunite with his family.
“When you haven’t been home for seven years, you kind of forget where you came from at some point,” he said. “Being in America for a long period of time, they might say that you get Americanized. When you’re away from home, you can lose that vision along the way. Being back gave me a refresher. You understand that you’re here for a reason — not only for myself, but for my home.”
During his 30 days in Jamaica, Kellier also got a chance to meet and speak with the nation’s most famous athlete, eight-time Olympic gold medalist and 100- and 200-meter dash world-record holder Usain Bolt.
“He gave me some good tips, some great recommendations as I get going into my last year of college,” Kellier said.
Kellier also made time to fetch a few souvenirs for members of his extended Siena family — though not as many as he’d have liked.
“I tried,” he said, “but I didn’t have that much room in my suitcase.”
“I got a Bob Marley mug in my office now,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said, “and he gave my wife a shot glass and a purse.”
Now back stateside, Kellier is excited for his senior season with the Saints, and Maciariello said he’s seen a renewed sense of energy from the forward, who, with a revamped Siena roster for 2022-23, will likely get more of a chance to play at his more natural forward spot this season, rather than being plugged in as a small-ball center.
“He hadn’t been home to Jamaica in seven years,” Maciariello said. “And now he’s back. I think that kind of rejuvenates you, when you can see some family that you haven’t seen and put your arm around your mom, [that] is something special.”
NEWS & NOTES
A day before hosting a men’s basketball offseason media availability Thursday, Siena unveiled its official roster for the 2022-23 season. That list doesn’t include graduate student Anthony Gaines, who won’t play for the Saints during the upcoming season, but remains on scholarship and will continue to rehabilitate at Siena the knee he injured late last season.
“Anthony is on scholarship, he’s going to graduate and we’re going to get him a professional job,” Maciariello said. “The goal of him coming here from Northwestern was to showcase his abilities to play basketball, and then to get him to that next stage in his career.”
Gaines, who worked out in Siena’s strength-and-conditioning suite Thursday before the team’s players entered to do the same, was a third-team All-MAAC selection last season. He tore the ACL in his right knee on the final play of Siena’s regular-season finale at Canisius and had surgery to repair the injury in late April.
Siena’s injury list was a long one by the end of the 2021-22 season, which concluded with a 15-14 record and a loss in the MAAC quarterfinals. Among those players were Jared Billups (wrist), Jayce Johnson (elbow), Taihland Owens (knee) and Andrew Platek (Achilles tendon), and each is at a different stage in recovery.
Maciariello said Johnson is “full go,” while Platek is nearing that status and could gain full clearance as soon as Monday. Owens has made “great progress . . . but he’s not back on the court,” while Billups said he’s on track to be able to “start playing in two, three weeks.”
Siena has a summer trip to Italy for a series of exhibition games that starts in mid-August. The majority of the team’s players returned to campus May 31 to start summer workouts. The Saints’ current session of workouts goes through the end of June, then the team will return to campus July 31 to start preparations for its Aug. 18-28 trip to Italy.
Gazette Sports Editor Michael Kelly contributed to this report.