Sam Kelly and Major Rainey’s eyes light up when they see a clear path to the basket.
What typically follows has become a common occurrence at Allderdice games and practices this season.
“Being able to get on a fastbreak easily is always a fun feeling,” Kelly said, “and rising up and dunking is always great.”
The Dice runs on dunkin’ this winter, and these “Dunkin’ Dragons” are having another outstanding season. Led by Kelly and Rainey, Allderdice is 11-3 overall and 4-0 in the City League. The Dragons are a heavy favorite to repeat as City League champions.
Kelly, a 6-foot-5 senior, and Rainey, a 6-4 junior, have been spending a lot of time above the rim and are one of the best dunking tandems in the City League or WPIAL. There have been so many slams that Kelly’s mom compiled a highlight video of all of the best ones that is more than a minute long.
Allderdice coach Devin Crummie said that Kelly and Rainey work on refining their dunking techniques in practice, with some of the focuses being dunking through contact and running plays for lobs.
“I can’t remember a time as head coach that I’ve had two guys that can really jump like that and jump quickly,” said Crummie, who is in his fourth season. “And they’re also guys who can finish the in-game stuff. Sometimes you get guys who are good jumpers, but you have to get them a breakaway. Those guys, they make some surprising ones.”
Two of the biggest showstoppers were Rainey’s monster alley-oop against West Mifflin and Kelly’s tomahawk against Westinghouse.
“It’s definitely been fun because last year I could dunk a little, but now I’m getting up easier and it’s always ‘showtime’ if I’m on a fastbreak,” Rainey said.
Rainey’s full name is Major Marino Rainey. The Major is after his great-grandfather, also Major, while his middle name is after Dan, the legendary quarterback.
When it comes to Major Rainey and “Sergeant” Sam, the dunking duo doesn’t try to one up each other, but they do inspire each other when one throws one down.
“I think we feed each other,” Rainey said.
So, coach, who is the better dunker?
“I think it’s a toss-up, honestly,” said Crummie, whose team reached the second round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs last season. “I think they’re equally good at it, which is unusual, too. They both dunk really well. Sam might have a little bit more power since he’s a year older, but I think Major might have to stride a little bit to kind of get up longer off of one foot.”
Allderdice has featured a lot of high-flying acts over the past decade. Buddy Valinsky had quite a few while guiding the Dragons to six City League titles in 12 seasons before resigning in 2019. Valinsky called Dajuan Dugger and James Jackson the best, adding that Bobby Clifford’s slam against Latrobe was the best he ever saw at Allderdice’s gym.
Kelly and Rainey are much more than dunkers, though. They are among five Allderdice players scoring in double figures. Rainey ranks second at 12.2 points per game and Kelly fourth at 11.8. They also rank 1-2 in rebounding (Rainey 6.6, Kelly 6) and blocked shots (Rainey 2.7, Kelly 1.8). Kelly leads the team with 2.2 steals a game
Scoring balance continues to fuel the Dragons, who have three senior starters in Kelly, Ethan Anish and Antwone Ward-Thurman, who stands 6-5 and eats up a lot of space down low. Anish averages 12 points a game and Thurman 7.5. The Dragons are currently playing without Anish, who has a back injury. Also averaging in doubles for the Dragons are junior Logan Golle (13) and sophomore Jack Segall (10.2). Golle and Anish are both excellent 3-point shooters. Golle has 27 and Anish 25.
“I think it’s key,” Crummie said of the balance. “I know when we’re scouting people, we look to shut down one or two people. That would be tough to do for us.”
Crummie said his team isn’t as deep as they were last season, but they are more experienced. That has shown this season in wins against WPIAL foes North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Gateway, Montour, West Mifflin and Imani Christian. Allderdice’s only losses came at Erie High and to two out-of-state teams at a tournament in South Carolina. The Dragons have one other game against a WPIAL opponent scheduled, as they will host Upper St. Clair on Jan. 21.
“Personally, I love those games,” Kelly said. “I always like to think the City League is a little slept on. I like to come out and really show them what we can do.”
And when Kelly and Rainey do, some dunks will likely be part of the show. Allderdice has its eyes locked in on winning another City League championship, which begs the question: If they were to hit the game-winning shot in the final, how would those two want to do it, by a 3-pointer or slam dunk?
“I’m going to take a 3 honestly,” Kelly said.
Added Rainey, “I’m going to take a dunk.”