Big things can come in small packages

When Kharri Dailey steps on the basketball court, he’s usually the smallest player on the floor, standing just 5-foot-5 and 131 pounds.

But what Dailey lacks in stature, he makes up for with incredible basketball talent and it hasn’t taken him long to establish himself as a go-to player for the Alpena Community College men’s basketball team.

During a game against Schoolcraft last month, Dailey juked two defenders and sank an off-balance jumper with eight seconds left to give the Lumberjacks a two-point win. A week later, he scored 32 points in a win over Macomb.

After a slow start to the season, Dailey, a native of Toledo, has turned into a seasoned veteran on a young ACC squad. As the Lumberjacks’ starting point guard, Dailey has become a top scorer and top-notch facilitator who uses his speed to outscore, outrebound and outwork opponents who usually tower over him.

“Me being smaller, it makes me quicker and makes me play smarter. I have to use angles to where they can’t block my shot,” Dailey said. “I’ve tried to be that quarterback on the court, passing to get more players involved. As I was doing that, people were backing off of me, so I decided to take more shots, better shots.”

Dailey’s quickness in high school turned the heads of many coaches in the Toledo City League and eventually caught the attention of ACC coach Frank McCourt, who learned of Dailey through a coaching connection in the Toledo area.

Dailey was set on attending Cincinnati State, but when he started having second thoughts, McCourt increased his scholarship offer to Dailey and made contacts with several of his family members. It was enough to persuade Dailey to head to Northeast Michigan where he quickly became a starter for the Lumberjacks and has shown a knack for scoring and setting up his teammates with open looks.

“I called Jim Welling, the coach at Toledo Central Catholic (High School). I said ‘We need to get better’. How many good ball players are there in Toledo?’ He said, ‘That I know of? Two, Mookie Mustafaa and Kharri Dailey,” McCourt said. “They told me he was quickest kid in Toledo. He’s the quickest kid I’ve ever coached. What makes him so special is he’s a great shooter.”

Mustafaa followed Dailey to ACC and played for the Lumberjacks earlier this season.

Growing up, Dailey was always more of a passer and averaged double digits in assists in high school. After his sophomore season he transferred from Toledo St. Francis de Sales to Toledo Bowsher and grew from 4-11 to 5-5 by the summer of his junior season. As a senior he earned an All-Northwest Ohio Honorable Mention and an AP All-District special mention while averaging double digits in both points and assists.

Dailey often hears opponents joke about his small stature, but takes it in stride and it usually doesn’t take long for him for him to earn the respect of the opposition, especially when he makes an incredible play.

When I walk in the gym and there’s another team sitting in the stands, I hear them laughing or saying, ‘Oh he’s short.’ Their coach has told them about me and I just laugh because when we get on the court it’s a totally different story,” Dailey said. “They give me props after games. The last game (a game against Macomb in late January), a dude kept telling me, ‘Good job Mini-Me, good job Mighty Mouse,’ after everything I did.”

Though the Lumberjacks have taken some lumps this season, they’re currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, which would qualify them for a playoff spot if the season ended today.

Dailey is proud to be a part of ACC’s efforts this season and McCourt said Dailey will be a key piece for an ACC squad that hopes to make a run at an Eastern Conference title next season.

“He always plays hard. Whether he’s done or whether he’s up, he always plays hard. He’s a cornerstone for us,” McCourt said. “He’s the foundation of next year because he’s a guard and he’ll just get nothing but better.”