High-Scoring Luke Kennard
Climbing past LeBron James on the Ohio state high school basketball all-time scoring list, 6-foot-5 guard and USA Basketball veteran Luke Kennard recently has been a headline-maker and social media star in the midst of his senior year at Franklin High School in Franklin, Ohio.
With 44 points against Brookville High School on Feb. 6, Kennard surpassed LeBron’s 2,646 point total and moved to No. 4 with 2,652 points. Four nights later after 38 points in a win over Carlisle High School on Feb. 10, Kennard improved to No. 3 with 2,690 career points.
“It means a lot,” Kennard said of his most recent accomplishments on the state’s scoring list. “I’m enjoying everything that happens with the people that I love the most. So, that means my family, my teammates and coaches that I’ve been around my entire life. The things I have achieved, I’m just really blessed to be in those positions. The community and the support they have for me, I just really enjoy it. I’m excited for what is to come, and I’m always looking forward to getting better as a player, because there is always room to improve.”
Over that past year Kennard says he has made a tremendous amount of improvement, thanks in large part to his selection to the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team. Kennard won a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship that was played from June 20-24 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Playing alongside the nation’s best 18-and-under basketball players, he said it was that team’s leadership, including USA head coach Billy Donovan (Florida) and assistant coaches Ed Cooley (Providence College) and Sean Miller (Arizona), that taught him the most.
“They taught me a lot about the game that I brought back to my high school,” explained Kennard. “I’ve had a great year so far, learning from some of the best coaches in the game today and taking that back with me and using those things I’ve learned to develop as a player. It helped me see the things I need to work on, and it will help me when I get to the next level.”
After averaging a team second-best 13.8 points per game and shooting a sizzling and team-best 51.7 percent from 3-point (15-29) off the bench for the USA in 2014, Kennard is looking forward to reuniting with six of his U18 teammates when he represents the red, white and blue in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit on April 11 in Portland, Oregon.
“I was really excited,” Kennard said of his reaction to be asked to join the USA team for the Nike Hoop Summit. “I know a lot of the players that are going to be playing, just from my past experiences with USA Basketball. I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to experience the Nike Hoop Summit. I’ve watched the game the past couple of years. It’s just going to be a real joy and a great experience for me.”
The 18th annual Nike Hoop Summit will see Kennard and his USA teammates take on a World Select Team that is comprised of the top athletes from around the world who are 19 years old or younger. All-time in the series the USA is 12-5, but the World Team took home consecutive wins in 2012 and 2013.
“There is some great competition,” Kennard said of the Nike Hoop Summit. “The USA hasn’t won every game. It’s going to be neat playing against great talent from all over the entire world.
“Playing for my country, I take a lot of pride in that. With that USA across my chest, I love representing our country well and always wanting to win everything that we can. I’m just really excited, and I’m just blessed to even have this opportunity. Not only am I proud of that, but my community here where I live in Ohio, we’re just really excited about it. I’m ready for it. I’m really excited to be back with USA Basketball and to keep learning as a player, so I can improve my game.”
Before Kennard suits up for the USA this April, however, he is focused on wrapping up his final prep campaign by winning more games than the did as a freshman, sophomore or junior.
“The past couple of years in our state tournament, we haven’t made it to state,” Kennard explained. “I think we could make a run in the post season playoffs and add that state championship. That is one of my big goals right now. Not just me, but as a team.
“There were some goals that I set at the beginning of the year, like playing in the Nike Hoop Summit and the McDonald’s All-American Game. So, some of those goals I’ve achieved, and I’m very proud of that, but I’m looking forward to the post season and the state championship run that we could possibly have this year.”
Having already signed a National Letter of Intent with Duke University for next year, Kennard knows what the next year will hold for him, and that’s a big transition to the next level of basketball, NCAA competition.
“I went on my visit to Duke, actually me and Chase Jeter were on the same visit together, and I went on visits to a few other schools, and I really just thought Coach K, he is the best coach in the world,” Kennard said. “I’m really excited to see how he develops me as a player. I’m very close with my family here, and I know that Duke is a very family-based program. Coach K is a family guy. I’m really excited about that, too. The way I could fit in and Duke’s style of play, it was just the best fit for me.
“I take my academics pretty seriously, and Duke is one of the top schools in the nation for academics. So, basketball, academics, Coach K, it’s really a full package, and I just couldn’t turn that down.”
He admittedly, and not surprisingly, has no idea yet what he would like to study, but he can tell you what helps keep him working hard through the long hours of academics and athletics.
“Honestly, just winning,” said Kennard. “That’s just how I’ve been raised and grown up as a kid. My family, they are really competitive, and I’m really competitive. I think just the will to win and always wanting to get better, trying to outwork the other person playing against me, whatever it is – basketball or a future job opportunity. I think just out-battling people and getting better; that is what drives me as a player and as a person.”
That same passion to be the best inspired Kennard to take a step back from another sport he played and loved, football.
“I played football my freshman, sophomore and junior years. I didn’t end up playing this past year, just to get ready for basketball season," said Kennard, who started at quarterback and was being recruited by numerous division I programs.
“It was hard to give up football. A lot of my friends play, and I really enjoyed it. I knew all the coaches, great friends with all of them, and I had a great time. Football, I love the sport. I love playing it. But, I thought it was the best thing for me. Like I said, I always want to get better as a player, and that allowed me to be ready for the (basketball) season. The first couple of Friday nights, it was a little tough watching everybody out there. I was in the student section about every single game, cheering them on. I still had a good time during football season.”
Having already experienced what it takes to win gold on an international court, Kennard and his USA teammates will undoubtedly be on a mission to win in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit. If you are in the Portland area get your Nike Hoop Summit tickets now. If not, stay tuned to usab.com for upcoming television broadcast information.