Don’t count out Luke Kennard drawing the equivalent of football’s 11-in-the-box defense this high school basketball season. Nothing less has stopped the high-scoring Franklin phenom.
“We tried to double and triple him and we got in foul trouble,” recalled Eaton head coach Denny Shepherd of Franklin’s most recent game. “We tried to go to zone and out of that we matched up on him with two guys as much as we could. We thought that we did a pretty decent job on him making him take bad shots – if that’s a word for him.”
Eaton held Kennard to 41 points and 18 rebounds. He nailed 5 of 11 treys. That added up to an 89-51 Franklin blowout that pushed its record to 6-0.
Kennard, 6 feet 6 and all but unstoppable offensively, is making his points as the state’s best boys basketball player, often. Through six games he’s averaging 40.2 points, including a season-high 51 he put on Edgewood in Game 2.
It’s too early to declare that Kennard is a lock to average 40-plus this season.
Here’s what we do know: Sold-out home and away Franklin games draw such college coaches as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari of Kentucky and Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Kennard is a hot ticket, for loyal Wildcats fans and the next level.
Kennard’s greatest “wow” factor? He’s a junior.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player for our whole area, not just our school,” Franklin coach Brian Bales said. “This is a guy who, I think it’s safe to say, he’s going to be playing at the highest level at college and he’s got a legitimate chance to be in the NBA.”
Kennard is the centerpiece of a new team that returned just him and junior Evan Crowe. Franklin hasn’t had a close game against mostly Southwestern Buckeye League opponents. That should change over the next five days at the Beach Ball Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., against a mostly nationally renowned lineup.
Franklin will play Mullins (S.C.) in today’s featured nightcap. Thanks to Kennard’s national interest, Bales said he fields weekly calls from national showcase events.
Franklin will return to next month’s Flyin’ to the Hoop at Kettering’s Trent Arena. Kennard will be matched against Houston Homeschool Christian Youth Association’s Justin Jackson, a coveted Class of 2014 national recruit who signed with North Carolina.
That’s what happens when your best player is listed among the top 16 in the nation by most recruiting services. Rivals.com has Kennard ranked among the top five guards in the nation for the Class of 2015.
It’s a tossup if Kennard will verbally commit to Ohio State, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina or any other college power of his choosing. He has said he’ll pick sometime early in 2014. He also is uncommitted on playing football as a senior.
“We plan to (commit) the end of this year,” Kennard explained this past fall. “Plans can always change, too. Anytime between now and the end of my junior year. It’s going to be a tough choice and I haven’t really thought about that yet.”
Wondering if he’ll leave the Wildcats early for college is no joke around Franklin: He can’t.
Kennard plays all five offensive positions or whatever is needed at the moment. Bales said “Coach K” envisioned Kennard playing all but center in college.
Kennard also draws the opposition’s best offensive player, whether a guard or center. Opposing coaches often say he’s never out of control on the court or shows up opposing players. Admiring youths flock to him as much as aggressive defenders, all eager for a cell-phone photo moment before and after games.
That’s no wonder. Kennard’s easy-going manner on and off the court makes it easy to root for him. He’s vowed to finish his high school career at Franklin, which endears him to the locals who pack the Wildcats’ gym long before opening tip.
Owner of a 4.3 grade-point average and a recent inductee into the National Honor Society, Kennard had his best practice the day after scoring 51, which eclipsed his uncle Tom Kennard’s previous program high of 48.
“He won every drill; every sprint,” Bales recalled. “When you got a guy who’s scoring 51 points in a game and the next day he’s our hardest worker, that’s why our program is where it is.”