Master Kennard is a throwback. Heck, his school’s a throwback. It’s 94.5% white. That was possible in the 1950’s but now? Is that even allowed? Maybe it is because the institution, back in 2013, was deemed a “School of Promise” whatever that means. Anyway – that’s not important. What is important is to gauge just how good Kennard really is. Is he a flash in the pan or the real deal?
Maybe the real-deal meal - but. Future150 media covers high school basketball. The Shooting Guard is graded with plusses in 14 categories with “Needs to Improve” in 5. Let’s look at the weaknesses. Apparently his athleticism, lateral quickness, on-ball defense, upper body strength, and elite ball-handling skills need work. Let’s ignore upper body strength – that’ll come with age and weight training. But the lack of athleticism, though not enough to prevent him from scoring 59 points in one game, or averaging 39.1 points per game, is a flag. The NBA is filled with quirky personalities and some selfishness amongst stars and journeymen, but to a man, 95% of these guys ARE athletic. Can speed and agility be taught? Hmmm. Reps will help, but some folks are quick innately, while others, no matter the effort in drills to improve same, will improve a bit, not a lot. Nevertheless, despite playing against high school competition - competition that will be as spotty as some of the kids’ complexions, the big guy’s head for the game and basic fundamentals have him ranked 26th overall, and 7th for his position, nationally.
Yet, this white guy can jump: the 6’5” fellow can dunk. And, truthfully, he looks plenty quick enough, judging from the video highlight reels. He’s also a true teammate, being tied for second in assists in the Southwestern Buckeye League at 5.5 per game. He has been named, for the second-year straight, the Ohio Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Now, once he graduates from the King James Shooting Stars, a Blue Devil he will be, coached by Mike Krzyzewski. For now, he’s the hero of the town of Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin, whose motto is: “Inventing Our Future.”
11,000 souls scurry about doing just that (but, please, scurry up the initiative to update the town website with photos that aren’t as dull as dishwater. Thank you.) To a one, they’ll tell you that Luke Kennard is a nice guy, polite, and is no big-ego-head-case blowhard. Krzyzewski says: “He’s very level-headed…”
If the kid goes on to goodness if not greatness, goodness gracious, he’ll own this town. Its luminaries are few and not too stellar in the stars’ sweepstakes. Do you know Bob Timberlake? He finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy
– in 1964.
How about Frank Lickliter? He’s a pro golfer with two PGA wins. So the door’s wide open for Luke to get the keys to the city one day. But presently, and in the near future, one intangible will be how he handles adversity. At university all the competition will be better. Will he fold like a cheap tent or the Toronto Maple Leafs at the first sign of adversity? Probably not, but he’ll have to wrestle with a drop-off in points scored and time played.
It should be noted that Jon Diebler (3,208), the top scorer in Ohio high school basketball, has had a rather peripatetic career since graduating from Ohio State. He’s played in Greece and Turkey, but has hopes to play in the NBA - where his travels, so far, have been of the paperwork-legal variety. First he was a Portland Trail Blazer, then he became a Houston Rocket. Perhaps Kennard will follow a more traditional route to playing time and stardom in the NBA…
But for this kid, that’s miles down the road. Coming up, however, is his participation in the 2015 Macdonald’s All-American game on April 1st. Only 24 high school kids made this cut! Kennard’s on the East Team. He can now look back, pat himself on the back, and thank himself for that diligence of duty he’s displayed, what with his practicing hoops since grade seven.
Who have been other great high school stars? Recognize these names? Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report compiled his ten best: First went to Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). LeBron came in second. As for now, believe it or not, the basketball hot bed of Melbourne, Australia sports a guy named Ben Simmons. He’s a power forward and he’s ranked the top high schooler by ESPN. Luke is ranked 23rd. Wonder how his 17,000+ Twitter followers feel about that.
If Luke has a college career that even approaches – halfway in rank - to Christian Laettner’s at Duke, Coach K will be singing we’re in the money… But even now, Kennard is a ka-ching machine for his high school’s athletic department. Ticket sales have jumped 82% since 2009, largely thanks Kennard.
And soon to Duke will go cool-hand Luke. .