When Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett inserted freshman Kelly
Helvey into Sunday’s women’s basketball game against
Michigan State, it was like a firecracker had been set off.

Janna Hutz
Freshman Kelly Helvey has provided Michigan with a spark off the bench this season. The Toledo, Ohio, native leads Michigan with 26 steals. (DORY GANNES/Daily)

Before the substitution, the scoreboard displayed the result of
the Spartans’ domination in the first half — a 20-point
deficit — and the Michigan players on the court already
looked helpless. Many players were hesitant to shoot, passing the
ball until the shot clock had nearly run out. Consequently,
Michigan was forced into difficult shots from the field.

Enter Helvey. The forward’s energy showed immediately as
she came into the game with a fearless attitude. Every time the
ball made it into her hands, she either put up a shot or penetrated
the Spartans’ defense for a basket. Although Helvey shot just
1-for-9 in the game, Burnett credited her with bringing confidence
to the court when no one else could.

Helvey has been a spark off the bench for much of the season,
and one reason for her self-assurance could be her strong support
structure. At nearly every game this year have been 15 equally
energetic Helvey fanatics.

The freshman’s family, which hails from Toledo, Ohio,
contributes five of the 15. The rest are friends of Helvey’s
and their parents.

They sport bright maize-colored T-shirts with
“Helvey’s Crew” and her number, 32, across the
back in blue.

Daniel Helvey, Kelly’s father, explained that the family
designed the shirts when Helvey started playing basketball for
Michigan this season, but the Helvey fan club began long ago.

“I think Kelly (had the idea),” Daniel said.
“It goes back to high school. Kids would paint their faces
and wear white T-shirts with ‘Helvey’ on the

Helvey averaged 13 points and five rebounds for Toledo Catholic
Central High School last year as a senior. She was named a
McDonald’s All American, as well as Toledo’s city
player of the year, so it’s no wonder the forward had so many
vigorous fans in the bleachers.

Now that she’s at Michigan, Daniel said that family and
friends like to be at Crisler Arena whenever they can to emulate
the supportive atmosphere Kelly had in high school.

“We’re trying to make her feel more at home,”
Daniel said.

Despite her family’s support, Helvey admitted that
she’d like to see even more of her friends make it to the

“I just like to have people that I know here to cheer for
me no matter what happens,” Helvey said.

Even her boyfriend has donned a “Helvey’s
Crew” shirt a few times, although Kelly said he usually
“likes to dress nice.”

Helvey has already started half of Michigan’s 18 games
this season as a Wolverine and has been working hard to make an
impact. Although she has scored just three points per game on 25
percent shooting, she leads the team in steals with 26.

Helvey’s confidence and her ‘crew’ ensure that
Michigan fans will see more from this feisty freshman when Michigan
takes on Wisconsin tonight at 8 p.m.

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