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UPike men's basketball coach fighting off the court

By: Hillary Thornton Email
By: Hillary Thornton Email

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Fighting to the finish is often the difference between coming in first and coming up short. For a coach in Eastern Kentucky it could be the difference between life and death.

The heart of a champion can be defined many different ways and many folks would use the University of Pikeville men's basketball coach as an example. Kelly Wells, was diagnosed with a kidney disease while in college. In 2004, Wells received a kidney transplant from his wife, Shawne.

"Since 2004, in that time between the transplant and now we have had some complications with that kidney and also my native kidneys which have lead to my kidney disease return," explains Wells.

While Wells' disease has returned, his heart would not allow his kidneys to keep him off the basketball court. Wells says, "Giving up and turning the other cheek is not really an option, we have to keep fighting."

Paul Badgett, pastor at First Baptist Church of Pikeville, remembers watching Wells play when he was in high school, "I watched him play basketball in Rowan County and Kelly has always been a fighter."

Coach Wells says the competitive nature and determination often displayed in the locker room and out on the court is what is helping him fight this battle. "You have two options when you wake up in the morning, you have to look either positive or negative, and that's your choice. I choose to be positive..I've got a lot of great family, and friends, and people that count on me. I want to see my kids grow up."

While Wells agrees he does love winning ball games, that is not what his life is about. "I would be remissed if someone said he won a lot of basketball games, it is a good part but certainly a small part. If my kids thought I was just a basketball coach...I would have trouble with that," says Wells. He explains more, "You've got to define what winning is for you and winning for me is not trying to be the meanest guy alive, winning for me is much more broad scope than just winning basketball games."

Wells teaches by example what the heart of a champion truly looks like and Pastor Badgett says, "I am praying God will give him many more years of health because there is so much more we can learn from Kelly Wells."

Coach Wells just returned from a Louisville hospital and is adjusting to new treatment regimen that will hopefully get him back into remission and he says the outlook is optimistic.


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